Field Hockey (12-7, 5-3 B1G)
Northwestern closed its season with its second consecutive weekend split, finishing fourth in the Big Ten. Fresh off an 8-0 smackdown of Central Michigan last weekend, the No. 10 Wildcats headed to East Lansing on Friday for a date with Michigan State. The Spartans got the scoring started 25 minutes in, but the Wildcats equalized through Elena Curley’s goal with under four minutes left in the half. It looked like the halftime score would be level, but Michigan State struck with time expired in the half on a penalty corner and took a 2-1 lead.
In the second half, it was all Northwestern. Dom Masters scored six and a half minutes into the period, and exactly ten minutes later Pascale Massey scored to give the ‘Cats a 3-2 lead. Five minutes later, Massey scored again to make it 4-2. But the Spartans weren’t done. Just over a minute later, they brought the score back to within one with a redirection, but they could not get closer. The Wildcats blocked three shots in the final 15 minutes to preserve the win for Lindsay von der Luft, who made six saves, including one off a penalty stroke early in the second half.
There wasn’t much time for the Wildcats to celebrate, however, as they headed over to Ann Arbor for a matchup with No. 17 Stanford the following afternoon. It was the Wildcats who struck first, as Masters scored her second goal of the weekend just three minutes in. NU didn’t record another shot the rest of the half, but held on to the 1-0 lead until the 46th minute when Stanford equalized. Northwestern took the lead again when Curley scored her second goal of the weekend, but Stanford equalized again when Fran Tew converted a penalty stroke chance.
The teams remained tied through the end of regulation. They remained tied for an overtime period. They remained tied for a second overtime period. And so, for the first time since 2006, the Wildcats headed to a shootout. Millie Stefanowicz converted Stanford’s first attempt, and Tew converted its fourth. No one scored in between, as none of four Wildcats could beat keeper Kelsey Bing, who needed to make just three saves all match. Stanford prevailed in the shootout 2-0, and won the match 3-2.
The regular season may be over, but the postseason is just about to begin. The Wildcats have earned the fourth seed in the Big Ten Tournament and will play their quarterfinal match against fifth-seed and No. 15 Iowa on Thursday, Nov. 3. NU defeated Iowa 1-0 in an exhibition match way back on August 20, but the Hawkeyes are much improved and defeated Northwestern in Evanston 2-1 in overtime just two weeks ago.
Volleyball (8-16, 1-11 B1G)
NU won its first match of the conference season last weekend. It didn’t win any more this weekend. First up was a rematch with the Iowa Hawkeyes on Friday. Iowa swept NU in Evanston earlier this season, but NU displayed vast improvements this time around. Still, as has frequently been the case, it simply wasn’t enough as the Hawkeyes took the match 3-1.
The Wildcats held a 22-18 lead in the first set, but the Hawkeyes rattled off the final seven points to capture the frame. The second set wasn’t nearly as close in a 25-18 Iowa win, but NU played one of its best sets in the month of October in a 25-16 win. It looked like they had won set four as well, but replay removed two separate Wildcat points late in the frame and the Hawkeyes capitalized, winning the set 26-24.
The Hawkeyes hit .230 on the day, but that average was ballooned by two back-row players who got kills they shouldn’t have and hit 1.000 – NU was excellent defensively, tallying 14 total team blocks. Gabby Hazen led the way with 3.5 total blocks and 10 kills, while Maddie Slater added 3 blocks and 9 kills, tallying her 300th career block in the first set. Taylor Tashima tallied an impressive 44 assists, but she was outdueled by 47 from Loxley Keala, who has established herself as one of the best setters in the conference in her senior season. Reghan Coyle paced Iowa with 14 kills on a lethal .409 average while stud libero Annika Olsen racked up 21 digs.
Iowa represented the last best chance for NU to pick up win No. 2 for quite a while. Case in point: the very next day, the Wildcats traveled to Lincoln to face No. 1 Nebraska, a team which has very much played like the No. 1 team in the nation in recent weeks. NU played two great sets and one subpar one when it faced then-No. 1 Minnesota a few weeks ago, and it was more of the same Saturday as Nebraska walked away with a straight-sets win. Both teams came out sizzling in the first set: Northwestern hit .440 and Nebraska .520, and the Wildcats kept it close, but the Huskers prevailed 25-20. The second set was nothing like the first. The Wildcats hit .133 and scored just 11 points, tied for their lowest output in a regular set this season, and Nebraska rolled. The third set saw better defense than the first and better offense than the second, but it was still not enough for Northwestern as Nebraska prevailed with another 25-20 victory.
Four different Huskers tallied at least seven kills, led by a lethal 11-kill, .500 average performance from star Kadie Rolfzen. Hazen led the ‘Cats by hitting .364, her third straight match hitting over .300. A matchup with the reigning national champions was always going to be tough, and it doesn’t get a whole lot easier coming up. Next weekend features a trip to the Great Lakes State with a back-to-back against Michigan and Michigan State. Both teams are nationally ranked in the top 20 at present, and both possess a lot of firepower. And both will be very hard for Northwestern to beat.