No. 10 Rutgers upsets No. 3 Northwestern field hockey in Big Ten opener

By Logan Schiciano

Nothing seemed to go the Wildcats’ way on Friday night at Lakeside Field. From defensive miscues to frustrating officiating, the team suffered its first home loss of the season at the hands of the No. 10 Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The 2-1 defeat in No. 3 Northwestern’s Big Ten opener also snapped its five-game win streak and was Rutgers’ sixth win against a ranked opponent this year. 

After a scoreless opening period, the ‘Cats struck first when senior defender Kayla Blas corralled the ball off a Northwestern missed shot and slapped it into the back of the net for her second goal of the season. After Rutgers’ Lucy Bannatyne was sent to the sidelines for a yellow card, the ‘Cats capitalized on playing the final few minutes of the half a man up. Blas’ goal came with just over a minute remaining in the second quarter and gave Northwestern a 1-0 advantage at the half. 

The Scarlet Knights responded toward the end of the third when freshman Iris Langejans eluded multiple Northwestern defenders and sent a pass across the face of the goal. The ‘Cats were unable to clear, which left Rutgers senior Gianna Manci waiting at the back post and she pushed the ball in to knot the score at 1-1. 

Conceding a goal in unexpected fashion sparked a new fire in Northwestern. The ‘Cats began the fourth period with a newfound sense of urgency, pushing the ball up the field and being more decisive in their decision-making. The Scarlet Knights continued to play hungry, looking to leave Evanston with a victory.

The turning point of the contest came with about six and a half minutes remaining when Blas was green-carded by the referee, setting up a Rutgers corner — the team’s eighth of the game to Northwestern’s three. Northwestern goalie Annabel Skubisz saved the initial shot off the set-piece, but it deflected right to the Rutgers’ corner-taker Liz Romano. Romano quickly passed to her fellow senior Milena Redlingshoefer, whose shot from straight-on whizzed past Skubisz and into the net. Redlingshofer’s team-leading fourth goal of the season was the difference-maker. As the final horn sounded, the Scarlet Knights embraced, while several Northwestern players crouched to their knees in agony. 

Rutgers’ win is the program’s third top-five win over Northwestern in the past two seasons (the Scarlet Knights beat the ‘Cats in back-to-back games last April), and its highest-ranked win in modern history. Now with a record of 7-1, the Scarlet Knights are off to their best start since the 2008 season. 

For the Wildcats, the tough loss was in large part due to their inability to create opportunities in the attacking portion of the field. They mustered only four shots on-goal all game.

One bright spot was the play of Skubisz, who racked up seven saves and kept the ‘Cats in the game. Freshman Bente Baekers and sophomore Lauren Wadas led the team in shots with two apiece. 

Northwestern (now 8-2) will look to get back in the win column this Thursday when it opens a three-game road trip against Maryland.