After Friday’s overtime loss to Penn State, it seemed No. 8 Northwestern’s season was on the verge of taking a turn for the worst. Sunday, the Wildcats reversed the narrative in a 4-1 win over No. 19 Rutgers.
In NU’s (11-5, 4-2 Big Ten) last two games prior to Sunday, the opposing team scored first. But against the Scarlet Knights (6-6, 1-3 Big Ten), the Cats were able to set the tone by scoring early and keeping an aggressive forward press into the fourth quarter.
Freshman forward Bente Baekers scored the first goal Sunday on a straight shot from the top on a penalty corner at the end of the first quarter.
After the Scarlet Knights tied it up with a penalty corner goal of their own in the second quarter, NU continued its aggressive offensive press.
Later in the second quarter, sophomore midfielder Shannon Daley took advantage of a self-start opportunity and made a quick pass to senior midfielder Saar de Breij, who chipped the ball over the head of the Rutgers goalkeeper Gianna Glatz. For the rest of the game, the Cats never relinquished their lead.
Sophomore midfielder Maren Seidel scored the third goal, which changed the tone of the day. Rutgers averages 1.58 goals per game, so the two-goal lead gave NU a massive advantage.
“I thought at halftime that we were tied. I was wrong. I even saw the scoreboard and I thought it was wrong,” Seidel said. “I was really excited when I scored because I thought it was 3-2 instead of 3-1. I was playing with the mindset that we had to score.”
The Cats outshot Rutgers 14-10, and had six penalty corner attempts compared to the Scarlet Knights’ three corners, of which they converted one for their only goal of the game. Baekers tacked on a penalty stroke in the final minutes to add to her 19 goals this season.
For the first time in five games, NU did not have to play in overtime, and coach Tracey Fuchs believed the extra periods in previous games led to some team fatigue.
After a scoreless first half Friday, the Nittany Lions scored early in the second half, but the Cats scored two consecutive goals to take a 2-1 lead. The lead held until the middle of the fourth quarter, but the Nittany Lions tied it up after a NU penalty left them one player short.
Penn State went on to win 3-2 in double overtime.
Friday’s loss to Penn State changed the scope of Sunday’s game. NU dropped to 3-2 in conference play, making Sunday’s game against Rutgers a must-win in order to preserve their third place seeding.
“We played a good game on Friday, but to bounce back, it just shows the resilience of our team,” Fuchs said. “We’ll never give up, we’ll just keep on fighting, and you just never know what’s going to happen in the Big Ten.”
The Daily Northwestern