Skubisz shines, ‘Cats offense goes dark in loss to Maryland
By Logan Schiciano
After a thrilling overtime victory on Friday, the No. 2 Northwestern field hockey team was unable to carry the momentum into Sunday’s crucial contest with tNo. 4 Maryland, falling 2-1 in overtime.
While the game was knotted at a goal apiece for over 58 minutes, the Terrapins were constantly threatening inside the circle, racking up a staggering 11 corners, seven of which were in the fourth quarter alone. They eventually broke through in overtime, spoiling an incredible effort from Northwestern goalie Annabel Skubisz, who had a career-high 13 saves on the afternoon.
Maryland dominated possession in the first half, but it was the ‘Cats who found themselves gaining an early advantage. Just three minutes in, Northwestern drew a penalty corner. Off the insert, Bente Baekers’ shot took a deflection and sailed into the net for a goal.
Even with the lead, head coach Tracey Fuchs said she could tell from the get-go that her team looked a step slow on Sunday.
“I thought Maryland outplayed us pretty much for most of the game,” Fuchs said. “We had to generate more attack today. [On defense] I think we were over committing and really weren’t set for our tackles. We had way too many unforced errors.”
One of those unforced errors came almost immediately after the Baekers goal. Maryland earned a corner after Northwestern’s Regan Cornelius was called for intentionally playing the ball over the backline. The sophomore was facing heavy pressure from Dani Van Rootselaar, and that’s exactly who made her pay.
Maryland’s first corner of the game was successful. Van Rootselaar’s shot bounced off a Northwestern player and was redirected past Skubisz. The fourth minute goal was the graduate student’s fifth of the year, and she wasn’t done yet.
Although Maryland was without its top attacker Hope Rose due to injury, the Terps maintained an edge offensively. They outpaced the ‘Cats in shots 11-3 in the second and third periods combined. However, the game remained tied heading to the final period.
Less than a minute into the fourth, Northwestern’s Lauren Wadas put a nice move on defender Emma Deberdine to create some space at the edge of the circle. Her shot from straight took a slight deflection off a Maryland player and went just wide of the cage. It forced a Wildcat corner which was nearly flicked in by Peyton Halsey.
Maryland earned a series of three corners in the final five minutes of regulation and all were fended off by the Wildcats’ back line and Scubisz. Arguably the junior goalkeeper’s best save was the final one, when she reached back across her body to deny Van Roostselaar with just 55 seconds to go.
“[Scubisz] had a great game,” Halsey said. “Save after save, and at the end of the game it really could’ve gone either way.”
After both teams played overtime games on Friday, they once again found themselves needing additional time to decide a winner.
Only two minutes elapsed in extra time before Van Rootselaar snuck behind Kayla Blas, turned and dribbled the ball all the way into the circle. A late charge from Wadas to poke the ball free was unsuccessful and Van Rootselaar’s shot found the back of the cage, giving Maryland the overtime victory, 2-1.
The overtime goal was Van Rootselar’s fourth goal in her last two games and third game-deciding goal of the season. It propelled Maryland into first place (5-0) in the Big Ten conference and vaulted Northwestern (1-2) down to fifth. Despite the heart-breaking loss, Halsey said she’s not concerned about the ‘Cats spot in the standings.
“We have to acknowledge that the Big Ten is probably the best conference in field hockey. We’re gonna beat each other, lose to each other and it’s going to be a really tough matchup at the end of the year,” Halsey said.
Looking forward, Northwestern will play five of its next six games on the road – the ‘Cats next home game is not until Oct. 21 against Michigan. Fuchs said the recent wave of adversity should spark a good stretch of practice this week.
“We’re really, really close to being a really good team,” Fuchs said. “But we got to show up every day and put that out on the field. This team knows I’m never satisfied.”
Northwestern will continue its competitive conference schedule when it takes on Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey next Saturday.