For the first time in 27 years, Northwestern field hockey is headed to the Final Four.
The Wildcats defeated two-seed Iowa, 1-0, on Sunday afternoon on its home turf in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. After handing the Hawkeyes their only regular-season loss back in October when they were ranked No. 1 in the nation, the Wildcats finished the sweep in the game’s final minute, avenging their 3-1 NCAA quarterfinal loss to Iowa last season.
While the game was evenly matched throughout, the Wildcats outshot the Hawkeyes 13-5, including 6-2 on goal. It also led 4-3 in corners, and Annabel Skubisz recorded two saves.
It took the Hawkeyes a little time to get going, but the Wildcats came out of the gate strong. In the first 15 minutes, they outshot their opponent 4-0, as Peyton Halsey led the charge with two shots, including one 13 minutes in that was followed up by a great look from Ana Medina Garcia. Ultimately, they were not able to connect on any of their chances early on, but NU dominated the possession and momentum.
However, Iowa started to bring some pressure in the second quarter, keeping the ball on its offensive half, but Northwestern’s defense hung tight. The Hawkeyes got the first corner of the game with five minutes remaining in the half during their first real sustained pressure, but Northwestern was able to clear it.
Just a minute later, Tracey Fuchs called for a referral, which was a smart decision, as the Wildcats were granted their first corner of the game — but the Hawkeyes stopped them short.
The scoreless first-half play continued and intensified in the third quarter. Both teams brought pressure on offense and played incredibly tough defense. While Iowa worked its way into the circle often, the Wildcats effectively limited their shots on goal to just two all game.
With two minutes to go in the third, Bente Baekers drew NU’s second corner, but Lauren Wadas missed slightly left, keeping the score knotted up at zero. Just a few moments later, Maddie Zimmer received a green card when trying to pick Ellie Holley’s pocket, which almost resulted in the Hawkeyes scoring, but NU caught a break.
Less than a minute later, NU was awarded another corner, but a huge save from Hawkeye goalie Grace McGuire kept the evenly matched game at 0-0 after three.
Iowa almost took the advantage early in the fourth with back-to-back corners, however, Northwestern’s defense again held strong and kept the ball out of the cage.
It seemed like this game was destined to go to overtime after a scoreless 59 minutes, but with exactly one minute to play, Wadas found the top corner of the net on a backhanded shot, giving Northwestern the advantage and sealing the win with her fourth goal of the season.
The Wildcats now advance to their fifth-ever Final Four appearance and first since 1994, as well as their first under head coach Tracey Fuchs. NU will continue its Cinderella run on Friday where it will face the winner of No. 3 Michigan and Harvard, which begins at 3 p.m. CST on Sunday. If Northwestern can come away with one more win in Iowa City, it will reach the national title game for the first time in program history.