Halsey’s heroics help ‘Cats complete OT comeback
By Logan Schiciano
Senior Peyton Halsey had never taken a penalty stroke in her Northwestern career. But when head coach Tracey Fuchs gave her the nod in overtime of a tie game on Friday, she didn’t waste her chance.
With seven seconds left in the first overtime period, Halsey sent a lazer past Penn State goalie Brie Barraco to seal a 5-4 victory. The goal capped off a thrilling comeback for the No. 2 Wildcats, who trailed the sixth-ranked Nittany Lions 4-2 entering the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats had to work from behind for most of the game. Just eight minutes into the contest Penn State’s Sophie Gladieux got free and scored. Though Benete Baekers equalized early in the second period off a beautiful feed from sophomore Lane Herbert, the Nittany Lions responded. Mackenzie Allesie netted goals on both sides of the halftime break to put Penn State ahead 3-1 two minutes into the third period.
Trailing by two goals for only the second time this season, Northwestern picked up the intensity. Strong stick handling by midfielders Maddie Zimmer and Lauren Wadas freed up opportunities for the ‘Cats inside and they eventually broke through. Baekers nailed her second goal of the game off of a Northwestern corner, cutting the deficit in half.
But the Nittany Lions were determined to extend their five-game win streak. Penn State stifled Northwestern’s momentum with yet another score at the beginning of the fourth quarter from Allessie.
That’s when Halsey stepped up. The midfielder got her first goal of the game when she snuck behind the Penn State defense and cleaned up a loose ball to make it 4-3 with less than 10 minutes to play.
Northwestern continued to apply the pressure but Barraco stood firm, racking up three crucial saves down the stretch in regulation. But the one Wildcat for which she had no answer was Halsey. With Annabel Scubisz out of her goal and under a minute remaining, Baekers had a shot off a corner denied, before Halsey sent a rebound home and knotted the game at four.
The ‘Cats and Nittany Lions headed to overtime for the fourth straight meeting. Northwestern had not beaten Penn State since 2016 and their chances to do so on Friday seemed bleak after Zimmer was struck in the face by a Gladieux shot attempt early in the first overtime period. For a team that already lost freshman back Maja Zivojnovic earlier in the game, an injury to the All-American Zimmer would’ve left Northwestern without two of its most talented players.
However, Zimmer returned less than four minutes later and so did the ‘Cats. Northwestern had numbers on the attack time-and-time-again, but could not get the final ball past Barraco. On the other end, Scubisz and the back line made a couple of crucial stops to give the Wildcats one last chance.
With players on both sides gassed, Northwestern’s Alia Marshall stole the ball at midfield and sent a pass in the direction of Baekers who was alone with the Penn State goalie. As Baekers tried to turn, she was taken out from behind by Barraco, giving the ‘Cats a penalty stroke with seven seconds left.
That’s when Halsey, not Baekers – who had taken seven penalty strokes in her first three seasons – rose to the occasion and scored, giving Northwestern its NCAA-best 10th win of the year.
Halsey’s hat trick Friday increased her season total to seven – the most she’s had in a single year at Northwestern. Baekers’ two goals extend her NCAA lead in both points and goals. She now has 17 goals and 40 points on the season.
Northwestern will return to Lakeside Field on Sunday at 12 p.m. CST to battle Maryland in another game that has major implications. The Terps are coming off an overtime win against Iowa – the only team that has beat Northwestern so far this season.