Over the weekend, Northwestern has a chance to cement its legacy by repeating as National Champions. To do so, the ‘Cats will have to get through No. 3 Maryland, who they split the season series with, as well as the undefeated No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels. Most of our writers are optimistic that the Wildcats will get past the Terrapins, but North Carolina may very well prove to be Northwestern’s toughest test yet:
Gavin Dorsey: Loss to North Carolina in Championship Game
Northwestern has been a thrilling team to watch in the postseason thus far, with a pair of shootout victories to its name. This team is definitely built for the clutch, but in order to beat 20-0 North Carolina, the ‘Cats will have to make sure they last that long. The Tar Heels have the best offense in the country to the tune of over four goals a game and a scoring margin of over three. If the Wildcats want to stay in this one, they’ll have to be aggressive and not let UNC get a large lead.
Bradley Locker: Loss to North Carolina in Championship Game
The Cardiac ‘Cats have made their triumphant return. While tight games equate to great viewing, it also means this team might be due for some regression after squeaking out shootout wins over Miami (Ohio) and Iowa. However, Maryland hasn’t exactly cruised to Storrs, with a double-overtime and shootout win under its belt. I think Northwestern’s magic continues to edge UMD for the second time this year, but the No. 1 Tar Heels will just be too talented to handle.
Iggy Dowling: Loss to North Carolina in Championship Game
In the rubber match between the Terps and the ‘Cats, I think Northwestern comes out on top. Even though both teams have recorded almost the exact same shots-on-goal season total, NU has converted at a 55.7% clip while Maryland’s rate bests that by seven percent. That, plus Annabel Skubisz’s excellent play in goal, could mean the ‘Cardiac Cats are due for a slight offensive advantage that will be enough to move on. However, UNC might just be too talented for Tracy Fuchs’s squad to keep up. Not only are the Tar Heels undefeated, they’ve played fewer overtime games all year than the ‘Cats have in the NCAA Tournament.
John Olsen: Loss to Maryland in Semifinal
Northwestern has gotten to the Final Four by the skin of its teeth, with its two wins in the tournament both coming via the glorified coin-flipping contests that are penalty shootouts. I’ll be completely honest, I have no clue what the ‘Cats’ fate will be this weekend, especially in a single-elimination tournament setting, where the result of the previous game has less of a relationship with the outcome of the next than Tom Brady and Gisele. As a result, I’ll make the claim, with no statistical backing, that in a rematch, the team that lost the prior game is more likely to win, and Maryland will avenge its Big Ten Tournament semifinal exit at the hands of Tracy Fuchs and co.
Sophia Vlahakis: Win Over North Carolina in Championship Game
If there is ever a team I will rally behind, it’s this one. Northwestern has been consistently dominant all season, and while there have been a few losses here and there, the ‘Cats never let it get to them. Right now, North Carolina is the best team in the nation, but I trust that Tracy Fuchs can lead her squad to victory. It will be a tough match featuring two of the best players in college field hockey with the Tar Heels’ Erin Matson and Wildcats’ Bente Baekers. There is no doubting the talent of UNC, which has one of the best offensives in the nation, but I won’t doubt Northwestern. The ‘Cats have seen tough competition all season, facing a stacked Big Ten. NU has a huge asset in goalie Annabel Skubisz and is filled with players like Baekers and Peyton Halsey who can find the back of the cage. Two championships in two seasons.
Brendan Preisman: Win against North Carolina in Championship Game
A lot of my colleagues see the dramatic way Northwestern has been eking out wins so far this postseason as a negative. I disagree — these dramatic wins show that the team knows how to buckle down and play its best field hockey when everything is on the line. Now, Maryland is a good team and there’s a reason they made the Final Four. However, the ‘Cats have experience gutting out close wins over the Terrapins, like the Big Ten semifinal in which Annabel Skubisz made five saves to help send Northwestern to the title game. Expect something similar to happen today. Meanwhile, North Carolina is assuredly the best team in the nation. Erin Matson and Ryleigh Heck are two of the 10 best scorers in the nation, and Abigail Taylor has been maybe the best goalie on the planet down the home stretch. Be that as it may, Northwestern has something even the Tar Heels can’t match: championship experience. That experience will show on Sunday.
David Gold: Win against North Carolina in Championship Game
There is a reason that this team has been called the cardiac ‘Cats. Northwestern is 7-1 in overtime this season, including two NCAA tournament victories in shootouts. It is this simple: the Wildcats know how to win in tight games. The defending national champions have not flinched when faced with adversity, and have the experience to repeat this weekend in Storrs, Connecticut. Tracy Fuchs’ squad has the game plan to beat Maryland in the semi-finals, as they defeated the Terps just two weeks ago to advance to the Big Ten championship. The ‘Cats outshot UMD 21-14 and had five more penalty corners than the Terrapins. Expect NU to follow the same plan and advance to Sunday’s championship game. While Northwestern has faced very good teams throughout the season, UNC will easily be the best team that coach Fuchs and co. have seen all year. The Tar Heels are a consensus no. 1 team in the nation, led by senior forward Erin Matson and goalkeeper Abigail Taylor. Taylor has been phenomenal in North Carolina’s run to the final four, and Northwestern will need to find a way to sneak one by her; however, the ‘Cats have the Tar Heels beat in the most important category: championship experience. At the end of the day, NU knows how to win in the big moments, and they will do it this weekend to become back-to-back champions.
Jake Mozarsky: Loss to North Carolina in Championship Game
I’m a bit more skeptical on this team, as they made it to the final four by the skin of their teeth, but at the same time: they are the Cardiac ‘Cats and anything can happen. Due to their experience in the final four and hunger to repeat, they’ll beat Maryland. But, the North Carolina Tar Heels are good. Very good. Northwestern falls one game, or even one goal, short.