Football and basketball get a lot of coverage at Northwestern. However, as many avid Wildcats fans would tell you, those two sports are not and never have been the best sports on campus. Every Friday, I am going to let you, the casual Northwestern sports fan, in on all the fun that happens outside the confines of majestic Ryan Field and the illustrious Allstate Arena. Go (lesser-known) ‘Cats.
1. Northwestern field hockey is one of the 5 best teams in the country.
Have you ever traveled down to Lakeside Field? And, no, I’m not talking about Lenny and Sharon Martin Stadium, the field right on the lakefill where the soccer teams play. I’m talking about Lakeside Field, the home of Northwestern field hockey.
Well, if you had made a few trips to the field, you might know that Northwestern’s field hockey team is undefeated at home (5-0). The ‘Cats are 8-4 overall, and ranked at no. 10 in the coaches’ poll following important conference wins over no. 19 Rutgers and then-no. 10 Maryland. But a quick glance at the RPI will show that Northwestern is one of the five best teams in the country, as their four losses came against four of the top six in RPI. Northwestern is led by junior star Puck Pentenga, who is among the top ten assist makers in the NCAA.
With that kind of talent and an undefeated home record, there are lots of reasons to go watch Northwestern field hockey. Their next home game is a Sunday matinee, an 11:00am start against UMass on October 15.
2. Men’s basketball isn’t the only team coming off the best season in team history.
Everybody knows about Northwestern basketball breaking its 77-year NCAA tournament drought last year, but Northwestern women’s soccer is also coming off of a record-breaking season. The Wildcats tied their best finish in program history (since 1994) by making it to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. The team was anchored by a defense that only allowed seven goals the entire season, leading the NCAA in goals against average (0.29) and shutouts (17). They also won the Big Ten regular season title for the first time in program history.
The women’s soccer team is 6-5-2 so far this season and off to a 3-2-1 start in a loaded Big Ten conference, which boasts seven out of 14 teams receiving votes in the national coaches’ poll. NU’s title defense is led by the same strong back line from last year, including central defender Kayla Sharples, who leads the team with three goals and also has two assists.
But the best part about being a Northwestern fan when it comes to women’s soccer? They’re only going to get better. The first year class has come in and supplied five of the team’s 14 goals on the season, ready to take on a big role for a team that has won more games each of its six seasons under head coach Michael Moynihan. Their next home game is against Minnesota on Thursday, October 12, and will be broadcast on-air by WNUR Sports.
3. In a loaded Big Ten, the volleyball team has stood out.
The volleyball team has started 11-5 this year despite a 1-3 start in conference play. The Big Ten has four of the top seven teams in the NCAA and seven ranked in the top 25. Even with that lofty bar set by the competition, Northwestern has managed to impress this season. In non-conference play, the ‘Cats went 10-2, and the schedule wasn’t easy — nine of the 12 opponents were over .500 last year.
Northwestern has had brilliant individual performers as well. Symone Abbott leads the Big Ten in kills with 226, Gabrielle Hazen is in the top 20 nationally in hitting percentage and sixth in the Big Ten in blocks, and Taylor Tashima’s 11.4 assists per set rank her 17th in the nation. Beyond that, the team as a whole ranks in the top 20 nationally in hitting percentage and aces per set.
The volleyball team has been out-shadowed at times by the incredibly high standards set by the Big Ten, but it is undeniably one of the most talented and fun-to-watch teams on campus. The team has a homestand this weekend, hosting Indiana on Friday night and no. 18 Purdue on Sunday at Evanston Township High School.