Northwestern’s national championship dreams live on.
The Wildcats defeated the Harvard Crimson 2-1 in overtime on Friday afternoon thanks to a game-winning, overtime goal from Bente Baekers. In its first Final Four appearance in three decades, the Wildcats showed out against the top defense in the nation to advance to their first national title game in program history.
Northwestern dominated the stat sheet, outshooting Harvard 10-3, including 8-2 on goal. It also had four penalty corners to Harvard’s two.
Northwestern got on the board first less than 10 minutes into the game on its first penalty corner of the day. Maren Seidel sent her shot from the top of the circle, which made its way past Harvard goalie Ellie Shahbo.
However, the lead didn’t last long, as Harvard tied it up with a corner goal of its own from Hannah Pearce less than a minute later. The two back-to-back goals were the first each team allowed in the tournament.
The two teams continued to battle through the first half, and the physical play resulted in a penalty stroke attempt for Baekers. However, Shahbo guessed right and stopped her shot, keeping the game tied at one at the half.
Neither team found the back of the net in the third quarter despite having ample opportunities. Both teams were awarded penalty corners off referrals but neither could convert. Northwestern’s Liese Wareham also received a yellow card with five minutes remaining in the period, but Harvard could not capitalize on the one-player advantage.
The fourth quarter was more of the same, as no player was able to give their team the advantage before the end of regulation, sending the matchup to overtime.
While Northwestern started its season 0-3 in overtime matchups this season and Harvard was 5-1, Friday’s game was a different story. Just two minutes into the first overtime period, Northwestern earned its fourth penalty corner of the day. Clara Roth inserted to Baekers, who nailed the game-winner from the top of the circle — her 18th goal of the season.
Northwestern will face No. 9 Liberty on Sunday at 1 p.m. CST in Ann Arbor, Mich. The title game will be televised on ESPNU. The Wildcats defeated the Flames 4-3 back in September. The matchup features the top two scoring offenses in the nation — with Liberty slightly ahead of NU — one of which will become a first-time national champion.
If the Wildcats can defeat the Flames on Sunday, they would bring home the ninth national title in any sport for Northwestern and the first in a team sport since 2012.