The new athletic season is well underway and new stars are beginning to emerge from the younger classes. Read on to find out who is going to star in each sport for the next few years, and how these talented youngsters have already made an impact.
Cross-Country – Moira Ryan
Northwestern’s cross country team is led by an impressive group of freshman runners, none more promising than Moira Ryan.
Ryan, who hails from the competitive Washington, D.C. area, was named the Washington, D.C. Cross Country Runner of the Year three times by the Washington Post. She won league championships as early as her sophomore year and hasn’t looked back since. Ryan hopes that her competitive background will help her adjust to the Big Ten.
“I came from a competitive area,” Ryan said. She added that competing at that level in high school makes her “appreciate competing at a Division 1 Big Ten level.”
Ryan attributes her transition more to her teammates, though, than her high school experience.
“Stepping into a Division 1 program was a little daunting at first, but the team made the transition so much better,” Ryan said. “All of the upperclassmen welcomed the freshman onto the team and were open to answering any questions we had.”
Ryan is excited about the upcoming season and believes that the team has a legitimate shot to contend against Big Ten competition. She said that given a month and a half of training, she has faith in everyone to be where they need to be to compete at the Big Ten competition in November.
“We are missing a few key runners due to injury but we are a team of really solid runners,” Ryan said.
Once those key runners come back, Ryan and this young and promising team could turn heads in the Big Ten. – Nathan Lipkin
Field Hockey – Chelsea Armstrong
Chelsea Armstrong is a coach’s dream: young, versatile and extraordinarily talented. The Australian sophomore is new to the team this year after transferring from the University of Western Australia, and is the primary reason for the team’s early success this season.
Although Armstrong is a sophomore and the star of the team, she still feels new to campus and to the team.
“I still feel like a freshman so it’s not really any different coming in as a sophomore,” Armstrong said. “I still consider myself to be a hockey freshman even though I’m a sophomore at school.”
Like with most other sports, field hockey is only offered at the club level in Australia, making it hard to juggle academics and athletics. Armstrong decided it would be best for her to transfer to make balancing the two easier. There are differences in the game, though, that make the transition tough.
“It’s a little of a different game over here,” Armstrong said. “There’s a little more running involved, a slightly different style of game.” She says that her teammates have been great with helping her adjust to a new country, community and style of play.
However they play in Australia, clearly it works well. Armstrong has led the team to an 9-3 record through its first ten games, and the team is now ranked 18th in the country. Armstrong has notched 45 points so far this season, 30 more than senior Courtney Plaster, who is second on the team. Armstrong also has scored 19 goals, 13 more than anybody else on the team, and is tops on the team with seven assists as well.
Head coach Tracey Fuchs, who is also new to the program, is lucky to have Armstrong in the program for the next three years.
“[Armstrong] makes an immediate impact. She’s really, really quick and she has excellent skills,” Fuchs said. “She’s very versatile and can play upfront or in the midfield or in the back.” -Nathan Lipkin
Football – Arby Fields
Halfbacks sporting the number 19 seem to be lucky around Evanston. Like Tyrell Sutton before him, true freshman Arby Fields is an electrifying, short, powerful runner who has made an immediate impact in his first couple weeks on campus.
Fields shies away from comparisons to Sutton, but Northwestern fans hope that their new star can be anything like his predecessor.
“Tyrell accomplished a lot here at Northwestern,” Fields said. “I have his number, but I’m not trying to be him in any way. I haven’t accomplished a fraction of what he’s done. I’m Arby and he’s Tyrell.”
Although he came from stellar high school competition in southern California, Fields says he notices a huge change in the dynamic and speed of the game.
“The biggest thing for me is that it’s a lot faster,” Fields said. “It’s a lot faster and a lot of things happen. In high school, the holes stay open a little longer and you have more time to fix your mistakes. At this level and in this conference, there’s a really small margin for error.”
Fields, rated a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, was ranked 35th nationally among all-purpose backs by the recruiting Web site. In his stellar three-year career, he ran for 2,959 yards and added 1,534 receiving yards for a total of 50 touchdowns. Also a spectacular center fielder and second baseman for his high school team, he was drafted in the 34th round of the Major League Baseball’s Amateur Draft in 2009 by the Atlanta Braves and will continue his baseball career for the ‘Cats in the spring. Coach Pat Fitzgerald immediately noticed Fields’ talent in early camps, leading to his playing time this fall.
“Coach let me know halfway through Kenosha that they were planning on playing me and I was having a good camp,” Fields said.
Fields has been lucky to have quality halfbacks surrounding him. He says that junior halfback Stephen Simmons has been a mentor, helping him with technique and learning the playbook. Simmons seems to have done a great job because Fields has averaged 5.0 yards per carry so far this year, gaining 120 yards and three touchdowns through the first four games. -Nathan Lipkin
Volleyball – Susan Oxnard
Before her freshman year of high school, Susan Oxnard was just like any other future college athlete. She practiced daily, competed at high levels and put countless hours of hard work into her sport, the difference being that the Wildcat women’s volleyball team’s outside hitter originally put all of that hard work and effort into soccer, not volleyball.
“I started volleyball as a freshman in high school,” Oxnard said, adding that it was “just a fall back” to soccer. However, the more she played volleyball, the more she liked it, and eventually she started to “hate going to soccer practice.”
After making the junior varsity team her freshman year, Oxnard turned all of her attention to volleyball, spending the next three years on the varsity team at Esperanza High in California. Along the way, she picked up numerous accolades, including team MVP and first-team All-Sunset League her senior year, just her fourth of participating in competitive volleyball.
Following her high school graduation, Oxnard spent a lot of time searching for the right college, craving the opportunity to pursue the sport to the next level.
“College has always been a big deal in my household, so when the time came for me to look into colleges I was very picky,” she said. In addition to Northwestern, she looked at Cornell, Fairfield and UC-San Diego, but ultimately chose NU for the ability to participate in both the Big Ten conference and its academic prestige.
Oxnard, who plans on majoring in Political Science, is not only looking forward to taking full advantage of Northwestern’s academic opportunities, but she also has high hopes for the team. She raves that the team not only is extremely talented but also “[meshes] together so well.”
“I expect that we will do well in the Big Ten conference this year,” Oxnard said. “It has been a pleasure playing with the girls on my team.”
Oxnard has made an immediate impact on the team this season, helping it reach a 9-5 record to start the year. The ‘Cats have a lot of depth at her position, but she has still managed to appear in ten of the games. After being a letterwinner in the high jump for four years in high school, she is a leaper that can have a great impact on the team down the road, playing multiple positions. - Francis D’Hondt
Women’s Soccer – Catherine Parish
With defense being a sore spot last season, coaches should be excited to have one of the most highly-anticipated recruits for the women’s soccer team, Catherine Parish, as she looks to help stiffen up the defense of the Lady Wildcats at outside right-back.
Parish was the 2008 NSCAA Oklahoma state player of the year in her hometown of Tulsa, helping lead her Jenks High School soccer team to four straight state titles. Parish isn’t the only talented Wildcat to come out of Tulsa — she attended the same high school as the football team’s senior wide receiver Andrew Brewer.
Despite the shaky 4-7-1 start to the season, Parish is very optimistic about the direction the team is headed.
“Overall I think we’ve learned we have to play every minute of every game hard, for our teammates.” Parish said. “If we play our best every game, we will come out really well.”
Parish noted that the team’s strongest point is their chemistry together, pointing out that “everyone gets along with everyone.” Hopefully the team unity will turn into wins as the season rolls on.
Although Parish said each game is equally important, a few upcoming games stand out on the schedule, namely big games against ranked teams Notre Dame and Illinois.
She will be a pivotal part of the Wildcat defense, jumping into the lineup and playing in all 11 games so far this season and already starting nine of them. Although she does not get many scoring opportunities from her position, she has been a solid defender, leading her team to an average of only 1.33 goals allowed per game, as opposed to the 1.47 the defense allowed last year with the same goalkeeper.
“This would really test how a Top 25 program plays versus our program,” Parish said. The ‘Cats will certainly need her defensive abilities to shine if they want to make a statement. – Max Groner
Men’s Soccer – Kyle Schickel
Any time a coach can confidently throw a freshman into a game before the school year has even started, he knows he has something special. That’s the case with Kyle Schickel, who has made an immediate impact on the Northwestern men’s soccer team.
Schickel will be playing left midfield for the men’s soccer team in his first year out of Louisville, Kentucky, where he was the Most Valuable Player in the 2007 and 2008 Kentucky State Finals for his soccer team at Saint Xavier High School.
A two-time all-state selection, he spent nine years on the Javanon Soccer Club, showing exceptional leadership by captaining the squad six years and capturing five Kentucky State Cup championships along the way.
He has been a key part of the team already this season, playing in seven of the eight games and starting two, impressive statistics by itself for a freshman. While he has only statically mustered two shots on goal from his midfield position, he should be a fantastic four-year starter and contributor.
After a slightly disappointing 4-1-3 start to the year, the team rallied to quickly turn around the season, winning three and tying one game out over the next four games.
“We had a couple weeks of practice where we just came together and worked really hard,” Schickel said.
Schickel has high hopes for the season, as he is looking to help lead the Wildcats to division dominance.
“We have a great chance to do something special this year,” he said. Shickel even went on to say that the team is “really determined to win the Big Ten this year.”
And Schickel knows the significance of this accomplishment, as this would be the first Big Ten title in the team’s entire history. – Max Groner