Field Hockey (11-6, 4-3 B1G)
In their final home game of the season, the Wildcats were snakebitten by the No. 12 Michigan Wolverines in a 3-2 overtime loss. Set pieces ruled the day, as all five goals in the match were scored off of penalty corners. Isabel Flens got things going for the ‘Cats 17:29 and Northwestern looked to have a halftime lead, but Michigan won a corner and equalized just 30 seconds before the break. Michigan took a 2-1 lead about 20 minutes into the restart, but Northwestern levelled the score with just over five minutes when Flens scored her 14th goal of the season. Northwestern then earned another corner right before time expired, but this time, Flens’ shot was saved by Michigan keeper Sam Swenson.
Both teams had chances off corners in overtime, but it was Michigan that capitalized seven minutes into the extra frame when Meg Dowthwaite tallied her fifth goal of the season on an assist from Emma Way. Dowthwaite had a goal and an assist in the victory while Way chipped in two assists. Kristen Mansfield assisted on both of Flens’ goals.
Looking to rebound from their second straight Friday overtime loss, the Wildcats headed to Mount Pleasant, Michigan, for a non-conference clash with Central Michigan. The Chippewas have just one victory on the season, and they weren’t close to getting win number two as they were walloped by the Wildcats 8-0. Northwestern got things rolling just 4:31 in when Pascale Massey scored her seventh goal of the season. But the former Big Ten Freshman of the Week wasn’t done there: Massey tacked on three more goals in the match, the first time a Northwestern player has scored four goals in a match since October 2012. Dom Masters, Lily Katzman, Puck Pentenga and Flens also scored for the ‘Cats, and the goaltending tandem of Lindsay von der Luft and Annie Kalfas was only required to make one save.
The weekend split sends Northwestern’s record to 11-6 with just a road game at Michigan State and a neutral site game with Stanford in Ann Arbor, Michigan, next Friday and Saturday left on the schedule before the Big Ten Tournament.
Volleyball (8-14, 1-9 B1G)
It was more of the same this weekend from Northwestern volleyball, as NU failed to win a set in either of its matches against some of the best competition in the country. Wait. Hold on a second. That’s not completely true, because, this weekend, NU volleyball did something it hadn’t done since November 11, 2015: win a Big Ten Conference match. And NU did it against a nationally-ranked opponent.
The Wildcats had lost nine straight matches. They hadn’t won a set since September 21. But on Friday, things changed. NU welcomed in a Purdue Boilermaker team that, despite being ranked No. 24 in the country, had had its fair share of conference struggles. But not even an expectedly lethal Danielle Cuttino or a remarkably efficient Sherridan Atkinson could save the Boilers from an inspired pride of Wildcats, who walked away with a four-set win.
Not normally known for their serving, blocking, or defense, the ‘Cats excelled at the service line, at the net and in the backcourt Friday night. NU tallied 8 service aces, tied for its second-most this season, led by five from Taylor Tashima. The Wildcats tallied 10 team blocks, tied for the most in a conference match this year, and limited Purdue to just a .167 hitting percentage. NU tallied 45 digs, tied for their third-most in conference play, led by 17 from freshman libero Sarah Johnson in her first career conference start. Add that to 18 kills from Symone Abbott and you get a 3-1 upset win.
The last team NU had won a set against was Indiana exactly a month before the victory against Purdue. So perhaps it was fitting that the Hoosiers came to town on Sunday, where Northwestern had the chance to keep its momentum going against a mid-table opponent. It didn’t quite work out that way, as Indiana emerged with a straight sets win. It’s easy to look at the result and say, “well, it’s more of the same from Northwestern.” But it really wasn’t. The Wildcats held leads and outhit the Hoosiers in sets one and two, but Indiana battled back and won them both in close fashion before more or less running away with the third set.
Indiana capitalized on a lot of its chances, but it was really once again the service game that ultimately did NU in: against Purdue, NU committed 13 service errors, but more or less balanced that out with eight aces. On Sunday, the 'Cats committed 12 errors and only two aces. Add that to the 15 attacking errors and you get 27 free Hoosier points out of the 77 they scored.
The weekend split moves Northwestern’s record to 8-14 overall. And if they want to finish the season with a winning record, the Wildcats need to start winning now. Their next match is a winnable one against Iowa on Saturday, but after that, they run through a gauntlet of some of the best teams in the nation, starting with the best team in the nation, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, on Sunday.