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Field Hockey: ‘Cats bounce back with just three matches left

Tracey Fuchs & Co. are gaining momentum nearing postseason play.

The Daily Northwestern

After two straight Big Ten losses, Northwestern quickly rebounded with two road victories. With a 12-3 record and a 3-3 conference mark, the ‘Cats are No. 3 in the nation. The expectation for this team may have been an undefeated season, but going up against a collection of talented Big Ten teams, it has not been an easy schedule. The Wildcats are still very much playing championship-caliber hockey, and their eyes remain set on a Big Ten title and national championship.

Friday, Oct. 14: Michigan State

In reference to “Major League,” it is not two but three straight wins or losses that constitutes a streak, and Northwestern field hockey does not have losing streaks.

Northwestern got on the board first, thanks to no other than Bente Baekers. And with another Baekers goal usually comes another historical feat. It was the fifth-year’s 80th career goal, making her the second player in Northwestern history and the fifth player in Big Ten history to have as many under her belt. Peyton Halsey grabbed the assist on the milestone, running the ball down the field and unleashing a pass into the scoring circle for Baekers to run onto.

The Spartans scored in the second quarter to even the game. The match remained tied at one until the fourth quarter, when Ana Medina Garcia broke the stalemate on a penalty corner. With just two minutes left, Halsey added another point on the board. The goal brings the senior midfielder to a career-high of nine goals and four assists on the season.

The 3-1 victory did not reflect Northwestern’s landslide of shots over MSU. NU had 23 with 15 on goal, and MSU had nine and five. Regardless, the ‘Cats quickly moved on from the past to winning again.

Sunday, Oct. 16: No. 21 Ohio State

28 goals in the second half and overtime; eight goals in the 55th minute; six goals to tie or take the lead in the fourth quarter or OT. The victory over the Buckeyes confirms what the statistics already show: the ‘Cats are one of the clutchest teams in collegiate field hockey.

Tied at one with the game headed to overtime and within just four minutes of extra play, Medina Garcia fired the game-winner. She bolted down the field, taking a defender one-on-one, and found the opposite corner of the goal.

The Spain native was just keeping up with tradition — it was her second career overtime winner, both of which have come opposite Ohio State. The goal also marks her sixth of the season, tying Medina Garcia’s season-high from 2020.

It was a battle of the defenses with no score until the fourth quarter. Northwestern successfully defended 10 penalty corners, while OSU was able to stop 10 of the 11. On Northwestern’s 10th penalty corner, Baekers fired a shot from the top of the circle that was deflected into the goal by a Buckeye.

As previously mentioned, a Baekers goal usually is followed by some historical accomplishment. Her 20th goal makes her the ninth Wildcat to ever record at least 20 on the season. She continues to lead the nation in goals and points with 20 and 46, respectively. Kayla Blas, who leads the Wildcats with nine assists, passed to Baekers.

Junior goalie Annabel Skubisz was outstanding for NU. She matched her career high of 11 saves for the second time this season, previously recording as many in the overtime loss against No. 2 Maryland. Among those saves were five within a single minute and a stop on a penalty stroke.

Looking Ahead

The Wildcats have just three games left before heading to Columbus, Ohio where the Big Ten Tournament will begin on Nov. 4. Northwestern’s last regular-season home game will be against No. 7 Michigan on Friday, Oct. 21 (3:00 P.M. CST on B1G+). The ‘Cats will then head to Bloomington to face Indiana on Friday, Oct. 28 (2:00 P.M. CST), and their last regular-season contest will be an out-of-conference matchup against Miami (OH) on Sunday, Oct. 30 (11:00 A.M. CST). Then, the quest for Northwestern’s sixth Big Ten title and first since 2013 will commence. The ‘Cats may have suffered three Big Ten losses so far, but such defeats appear to be blips on the radar for another uber talented team.