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Field hockey: Led by Baekers and Roth, ‘Cats on a roll

Five straight wins for Tracey Fuchs’ team as conference play approaches.

Ryan Kuttler - Northwestern Athletics

When we last wrote about Northwestern’s field hockey team here at Inside NU, the ‘Cats were ranked fifth in the nation and coming off a season-opening stretch in which they won four of five contests against ranked opponents, losing only once in a thriller to Boston College.

Fast forward to the present day, and the Wildcats have bolstered their record to 8-1 with the overwhelming majority of non-conference games complete. In the last two weeks, the Wildcats have decisively downed Kent State, Maine, UC Davis and California in order to move up to No. 3 in the NFHCA poll. The Wildcats have defeated their last four opponents by a combined margin of 23-3 behind the offensive power of junior Bente Baekers and graduate transfer Clara Roth, as well as stellar team defensive play that has limited the number of shots on goal that keeper Annabel Skubisz has had to save.

In their first match of the last two weeks, the ‘Cats faced then-23rd-ranked Kent State in Evanston. NU established itself early on in the game, with Peyton Halsey, assisted by Bente Baekers and Kayla Blas, netting her second goal of the season just two minutes and 18 seconds in. While the rest of the first quarter remained scoreless, the Wildcats went on an onslaught in the second, with last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year Maddie Zimmer scoring for the first time this year in the 16th minute, while Chloe Redford and Baekers each added a goal later on to leave NU with a 4-0 lead at half.

With the game largely in hand, Fuchs pulled Skubisz for backup goalie Jamie Marold. After a scoreless third period, the Wildcats added another two goals while the Golden Flashes avoided a shutout in the fourth, leaving NU with a 6-1 victory.

Two days later and also at home, Northwestern dismantled then-25th-ranked Maine 5-0. Baekers led the way with her fifth career hat trick, while Roth assisted on all three of her goals. In net, Skubisz made two saves in 45 minutes of play to produce a clean sheet. The win was NU’s 12th consecutive on their home turf at Lakeside Field.

As a result of her efforts in the matches against Kent State and Maine, Baekers was named the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Week.

The Wildcats then traveled out west for two contests against teams from schools in the University of California system: the UC Davis Aggies and the UC Berkeley (often referred to simply as California or Cal) Golden Bears.

Forty seconds into the ‘Cats’ game against the Aggies, Roth added her fifth goal of the season. Roth would soon be joined by Liese Wareham and Alia Marshall, both of whom scored in the first quarter, with Wareham adding an additional goal later in the first half to make it 4-0 NU at the midway point.

Two goals from Maren Seidel and an additional score from Chloe Redford made it 7-0 in favor of the Wildcats. While the Aggies scored a lone goal with 14 seconds remaining in the game, it was not nearly enough, as NU came away victorious in a 7-1 rout.

Two days later in Berkeley, the Wildcats once again tallied the first goal, with Seidel as the opening scorer this time around. The Golden Bears’ Sara Stone netted her first goal of the year to knot the score at one 23 minutes in, but it would be all NU the rest of the way. Blas, Zimmer, Roth and Lauren Wadas all added one goal apiece after Cal tied it up, while the Bears failed to score again, giving the ‘Cats a 5-1 victory and a happy flight home.

The majority of the remaining schedule for Northwestern consists of Big Ten opponents, with Ball State being the Wildcats’ lone remaining non-conference contest. They’ll open up conference play this Friday at home against No. 10 Rutgers before traveling to College Park next week to face Maryland.