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Field Hockey: No. 2 ‘Cats dealt first loss, still continue to impress

After falling to a familiar Big Ten foe, Northwestern bounced right back before a difficult homestand.

Northwestern’s 12-game winning streak came to an end in its first Big Ten matchup of the season against then-No. 5 Iowa. No need to worry, though, the ‘Cats are still among the best in the nation. Heading into a stretch of seven conference games, Northwestern is 9-1 and still clearly in the hunt for a national title.

Friday, Sep. 16: University of Pennsylvania

Northwestern had a slow start in Philadelphia, but an offensive explosion in the third quarter earned the ‘Cats a 4-3 victory. At the end of the first half, the Quakers led 2-1, and it was none other than Maddie Zimmer who scored Northwestern’s sole goal on an impressive run, taking the ball from the midfield to the cage all by herself.

Within four minutes of the second half, Ana Medina Garcia knocked in Bente Baekers’s pass across the goal to tie Penn at two. Not much time had passed before Baekers snagged herself a goal to send the ‘Cats ahead. To close out the eventful third quarter, Lauren Wadas scored to go along with her assist on Baekers’ prior score.

The matchup was not as close as the score may suggest. Northwestern outshot Penn 24 to four, but considering how impressive the Wildcat offense has been—after all, Baekers is on the team—it’s no surprise.

Sunday, Sep. 18: No. 8 Princeton

Over the span of a week, Princeton rose from No. 17 to No. 8, and the Tigers’ talent was clearly on display against the Wildcats. The matchup made for what arguably was Northwestern’s first real scare of the season. By halftime, neither team had scored and NU’s goalie, Annabel Skubisz, had already hit a season-high of five saves.

Princeton scored in the third quarter, and as the clock continued to wind down it looked like Northwestern’s streak may come to an end with a shutout loss. But, it’s never over until the buzzer with this squad. With less than five minutes of play, Baekers advanced a pass from Zimmer that was knocked into the cage by Peyton Halsey.

In their first overtime of the season, the Wildcats were so dominant it’s hard to believe they needed extra time to win. Northwestern had six shots and three penalty corners; Princeton had zero shots and zero corners. The ‘Cats won the game on Alia Marshall’s first goal of the season, which also made for Baekers’s first two-assist game of the year.

Friday, Sep. 23: No. 5 Iowa

Even with how flawless this team had been up until this point, an undefeated season is difficult to achieve. For a second it seemed that Northwestern might have actually been incapable of losing, but like the Oakland A’s 20-game win streak and the Patriots’ 21-game win streak, losing is inevitable.

Northwestern suffered a 2-0 defeat to No. 5 Iowa in what was the ‘Cats first Big Ten matchup of the season. Despite the disappointing loss at home in Evanston, the Wildcats had 16 shots and nine shots on goal, whereas the Hawkeyes had three shots and only two were on goal. Iowa just happened to be the more accurate team and snatched the win in a hard-fought contest

Northwestern’s 12-game winning streak was tied for the longest in program history. So, they’ll just have to begin a new one. And...

Sunday, Sep. 25: Richmond

...they started to do so in their very next matchup. Northwestern bounced back strongly from its loss with a 5-0 victory over Richmond, which showed off the strength of the offense and the pure greatness of Baekers.

Wadas opened scoring off an assist from Lane Herbert, Baekers scored two goals, Herbert scored herself, and Regan Cornelius assisted Chloe Relford for another point.

Baekers first goal of the game was her 75th and made Baekers just the second player in program history to reach the milestone. Fittingly, the historic benchmark came after the fifth-year received her third Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week title this season on Sep. 19.

The day didn’t end for Baekers on that point. She had her fifth multi-goal game of the season, scoring in the fourth quarter from the top of the circle off a pass from Garcia. Garcia also assisted Baekers’s first goal with Marshall.

Baekers had one of the most beautiful plays of the day as well. The forward intercepted a pass at midfield and fed a pass to a wide-open Herbert who scored Northwestern’s third goal. Not to state the obvious, but watching Baekers play is nothing short of a privilege. She’s an offensive weapon who leads the country in goals (15) and points (36).

Looking Ahead

Northwestern will begin a tough series of Big Ten games along the shores of Lake Michigan against Penn State on Friday, Sep. 30 (3:00 P.M. CST on B1G+), and Maryland on Sunday, Oct. 2 (12:00 P.M. CST on B1G+). Currently ranked as the second-best team in the nation behind an undefeated UNC-Chapel Hill, Northwestern is clearly on a quest for another title. And, this team certainly looks capable of winning one.