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Rapid Reaction: No. 2 Northwestern’s relentless pressure leads to dominant 2-0 victory over No. 3 Iowa

Final Four No. 3 soon come.

@iowafieldhockey / Twitter

The field hockey world has been warned.

No. 2 Northwestern (12-1, 5-0 B1G) smothered No. 3 Iowa (10-2, 2-2 B1G) in a 2-0 victory Friday afternoon. The Wildcats outshot the Hawkeyes 14-5 and won the penalty corner battle 10-1.

Ilse Tromp opened the scoring early in the third quarter, with a beautiful goal off of Northwestern’s sixth penalty corner of the day. Lauren Wadas, the defending Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, added a goal in the fourth quarter on a solo breakaway. As for Iowa, goalkeeper Mia Magnotta tallied 9 saves, but couldn’t fully hold up against a relentless Wildcat attack. Dionne van Aalsum, the nation’s leading scorer, was held without a shot in 51 minutes.

The Wildcats drew their first penalty corner just under two minutes into the game, but the Hawkeye defense managed to block the shot by Ilse Tromp and quickly took the ball the other way. On Northwestern’s next breakaway, freshman phenom Olivia Bent-Cole took a hard fall and came up limping, but remained in the game.

The Hawkeyes’ first true threat came with just over nine minutes to play in the first quarter, but Sofie Stribos’ pass dribbled harmlessly across the face of the goal and Northwestern was able to stifle the threat. About four minutes later, Alia Marshall fired a shot at Hawkeye goalkeeper Mia Magnotta, but Magnotta deflected it away. Marshall was able to collect the rebound and try again, but once again Magnotta was able to stymie the midfielder’s scoring attempt.

With just two minutes to play in the opening frame, Bent-Cole showcased her speed to get past the defense and run a break. With the defense drawn to her, she was able to find Chloe Relford on a quick pass, but Relford couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity. Her shot was saved by Magnotta, and the top-three squads went into the quarter break knotted in a scoreless tie.

The second quarter was also dominated by the Wildcats. Despite sitting at second in the country in goals per game heading in, Iowa totaled just one shot in the first 51 minutes. A big reason for that was Northwestern defensive pressure in the attacking zone and midfield, with the ‘Cats constantly swooping in and forcing turnovers.

Just over halfway through the quarter, Bent-Cole forced yet another turnover, this one from inside the shooting circle. She shook her defender and got a good look, but the shot was wide left. Less than a minute later, Northwestern garnered two penalty corners in an 11-second span. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, both attempts by Lauren Wadas were saved by Magnotta, who upped her save count to five.

With two minutes to play in the first half, Northwestern earned its fifth penalty corner of the afternoon. Lane Herbert failed to control the ball well enough to get a good shot, but NU managed to get the ball back within 30 seconds anyway. Iowa took it back over and managed to push forth one final attack in the first half, but a loose ball in the shooting circle bounced harmlessly over the goal (thanks to Annabel Skubisz) and the teams went to halftime with goose eggs on the scoreboard.

The first 30 minutes were almost completely dominated by the Wildcats. Iowa totaled just one shot in the first half, and it wasn’t even on goal. Northwestern had seven, five of which were on goal. All five were saved by Magnotta, who was one of the only reasons the Wildcats failed to break through in the first half. The clearest example of domination: Northwestern had five corners in the first half; Iowa had none. Yet despite the domination, the ‘Cats failed to open the scoring in the first half-hour.

It was on the sixth penalty corner that the Wildcats finally broke through. Tromp, who had a shot blocked in the first half, got a beautiful setup from Lauren Hunter and blasted the ball straight into the back of the net. Northwestern led 1-0, just 80 seconds into the second half. The goal, Tromp’s third of the season, was the first breakthrough of over 30 minutes of Northwestern domination.

After a green card on Iowa’s Jacey Wittel eight minutes into the half, Northwestern would earn its eighth penalty corner of the game a minute later. Magnotta was able to get her leg in front of the shot by Herbert, but the constant pressure by the Wildcats would not let up.

With two minutes to play in the third quarter, Bent-Cole once again broke free, but Magnotta stood tall and denied yet another Wildcat attack. The shot was Northwestern’s eighth of the game on the goal, and marked Magnotta’s seventh save. But despite her brilliance (and a green card on Wadas), Northwestern took a 1-0 lead into the final 15 minutes thanks to Tromp’s goal.

The dominance continued in the final frame. Wadas sliced through half the Iowa defense going right, then went across her body towards the left side of the goal. Magnotta was helpless to stop it, and No. 2 had doubled the lead with her second goal of the season just over three-and-a-half minutes into the fourth quarter.

Over seven minutes into the fourth quarter, Iowa earned its first penalty corner of the game. The Hawkeyes put up two shots — their first and second on goal of the day — but both were gobbled up by Skubisz, including a beautiful kick save on the second attempt.

The Wildcats, of course, could not let this threat to their dominance stand. In a 16-second span two minutes later, the ‘Cats totaled two penalty corners, with Wadas nearly adding a second goal to her daily total. Iowa continued their scoring efforts, but consecutive shots with over three minutes to go were denied by Skubisz.

A minute later, Iowa finally got on the board, though not without controversy. Northwestern initiated a video review, and the goal was disallowed after video replay showed the ball redirected off of Iowa forward Rachel Herbine. The shutout remained alive, much to the dismay of the home team and its supporters.

With under 90 seconds to go, Greta Hinke received a green card, meaning Northwestern would be a player down to close the game. It didn’t matter. Iowa probably would have needed about two extra players to match up with the Wildcats Friday. An offense that puts up over four goals per game was held scoreless, and the end result was a Wildcat win streak that hit 12. The streak is the longest for Northwestern’s field hockey program since 1990.

The Wildcats will return to action next Sunday, Oct. 15, when they take on Ohio at Lakeside Field.