Northwestern field hockey survives in shootout
By Logan Schiciano
For two minutes and 55 seconds, Northwestern fans, coaches and players waited in suspense. But after a lengthy review and an official signal that Miami’s (OH) fifth-round shootout goal had been overturned, it was pandemonium at Lakeside field.
No. 2-seeded Northwestern field hockey held off a valiant effort from the RedHawks and snuck away with a 2-1 (3-2) shootout victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday afternoon.
The ‘Cats defeated Miami (OH) earlier in the season 3-1, but the RedHawks came out with more energy this time around. They limited Northwestern to just one shot in the first period and had two penalty corners of their own.
“We had a pretty tough game with them last time, so they really wanted to get in here and get a win against us,” senior Peyton Halsey said after the game. “They just came out really, really hard.”
Halsey had a golden opportunity to put the Wildcats on the board with just under four minutes left in the second quarter. Northwestern was awarded a penalty stroke after a Lauren Wadas’ shot took a deflection off a Miami defender’s leg; however, Miami goalie Isabelle Perese made a diving stop on Halsey’s shot – the first time the Wildcat senior has ever been denied on a penalty stroke.
Despite the tough finish to the half, Northwestern came out of the locker room with a vengeance. The ‘Cats mustered 11 shots in the third period and Halsey redeemed herself in the 37th minute by converting her second penalty stroke chance of the game.
Halsey said that simplifying their approach at halftime allowed the ‘Cats to be more successful.
“Something that we talk about a lot as an attack is starting with the press, making sure everyone’s doing their job stepping up and I think we really executed that in the third quarter,” Halsey said.
In the fourth period, the RedHawks broke through off of a penalty corner. A bit of trickery at the top of the circle left Carlie Servis wide open on the left side. The Elverson, Pennsylvania native fired a low shot past goalie Annabelle Skubisz and into the right-hand corner of the cage, tying the score 1-1.
The MAC Champions flipped the momentum behind outstanding goalkeeping from Perese. After conceding Halsey’s goal, the senior had three crucial saves down the stretch in regulation, adding to her career-high 11 stops on the day.
The ‘Cats best chances after regulation came at the front and back of overtime. In the 61st minute Bente Baekers nearly redirected a shot that flew across the face of goal from Ana Medina Garcia. Then, with time winding down in the second overtime period, the ‘Cats had four straight corners but couldn’t cash in and the game headed to a shootout.
Garcia started the Wildcats’ first shootout of the season with a bang. The senior calmly put Northwestern up 1-0 and Skubisz denied the first attempt by Miami. Then, Head Coach Tracey Fuchs called on the freshman left-hander Aerin Krys, who, despite not playing all afternoon, doubled the ‘Cats lead 2-0 in the best-of-five shutout.
The ‘Cats looked poised to bury the RedHawks, with two of their best offensive weapons –Baekers and Maddie Zimmer – in line to shoot next. But Perese put an exclamation point on her stellar day by stopping both their attempts. On the other side, the RedHawks rallied and nailed their next two shots, evening the shootout 2-2.
In the fifth and final round, Wadas deked Perese to put the ‘Cats ahead. Needing a goal to extend its season, it appeared Miami’s Claudia Negrete Garcia had done just that when she slapped a shot past Skubisz into the back of the cage. But Skubisz called for a referral and the officials went to take a look. The call was eventually reversed, the goal was waved off, and nearly three hours after the game’s start, Northwestern secured the victory.
“It was a battle today,” Fuchs said. “But fortunately, we were battle tested and were able to pull it out.”
Fuchs said she never received official word on why the call was changed, but suspects it was because Garcia shot with the wrong side of her stick.
Friday marked Northwestern’s sixth win in overtime or later this season; however, it was the first time the ‘Cats won in a shootout since Sept. 29, 2019 against Michigan.
Northwestern advances to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals for the third consecutive year. It will battle Iowa on Sunday at 1 p.m. CST at Lakeside Field. Iowa beat Virginia in a shootout, 2-1 (4-3) on Friday. Northwestern downed the Hawkeyes twice last year, including once in the postseason, but lost 2-0 at home against Iowa earlier this season.
“It’s gonna be a lot of pressure and a lot of hard work,” Halsey said. “But we have to do it together.”