Northwestern is coming for it all this year.
The Wildcats advanced to their third straight NCAA championship appearance, looking to avenge their devastating 2-1 loss to North Carolina last November.
With the ‘Cats dominating the game, it seemed destined for them to come out on top. Even with the game tied in the fourth quarter, Northwestern outmatched Duke on shots, 20-1, and on corners, 10-1.
The ‘Cats came out swinging to start the game, as Peyton Halsey attempted two shots that sailed wide in the first 90 seconds. With five-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first quarter, Duke forward Hannah Miller was awarded a penalty corner. However, the shot by sophomore midfield Alaina McVeigh was deflected to the left of the goal.
With just over two minutes left in the opening frame, the ‘Cats drew their first penalty corner. Alia Marshall’s pass was knocked out of harm’s way, but first-year phenom Ilse Tromp got a chance at another corner but couldn’t convert. NU finished the scoreless quarter having attempted six shots compared to just one for Duke.
To start the second quarter, Olivia Bent-Cole drew a penalty corner that resulted in a goal by Tromp. Marshall and Lauren Hunter assisted on the first score of the game. NU accrued three more corners in the span of 37 seconds early in the frame, plus another opportunity that came with just 5.6 seconds left to go.
The last-second shot by Lauren Wadas sailed wide-right, and the ‘Cats entered the locker room at the half with a tenuous 1-0 lead. NU took 12 shots (four on goal) during the first half. while holding Duke to just two — neither on goal.
Entering the second half of action, the Blue Devils struck early. Miller caged an assist from junior back Megan Maransky less than three minutes into the quarter to knot the game at 1-1. On the other end, Bent-Cole slapped a beautiful pass to Halsey, but she wasn’t able to finish as it careened to the left.
The ‘Cats drew their first corner of the quarter with 5:25 remaining, but Duke goalie Piper Hampsch swatted Wadas’s shot out of harm’s way. Wadas attempted another shot three minutes later that was blocked and flew out of bounds. Northwestern dominated the ball for most of the third quarter, but the game remained in a stalemate.
The final frame began with a lengthy review over a foot by Northwestern. Just minutes later, Regan Cornelius caged an assist from Bent-Cole for her second goal of the season, giving NU a 2-1 lead.
With 7:30 remaining in the game, Bent-Cole flashed her fancy ball-handling skills but fired the shot wide-left. The Blue Devils could’ve had a chance to score with just over three minutes left, but NU regained possession after the referees overturned a crucial penalty call. The ‘Cats hung onto the ball for the last two minutes, maintaining their one-goal lead to advance to the 2023 National Championship.
Northwestern will face North Carolina in a rematch from last year’s championship on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. CT. The Cardiac ‘Cats will look to reverse their fortunes and defeat the Tar Heels in a matchup between the best two teams in field hockey.