Northwestern Field Hockey Season Recap
By Patrick Winograd
Northwestern Field Hockey had high hopes for its season in 2022. The team was hoping to follow up 2021, which saw the first national championship in program history, with another successful year. The ‘Cats were ranked No. 1 in the country to start 2022 as well, solidifying the high expectations for the season.
Northwestern opened up the season with six games in a row against ranked teams, but the ‘Cats were able to take home victories in all six of those games, including two matchups in the B1G/ACC Challenge with No. 18 Duke, who the ‘Cats defeated 2-0, and No. 14 Boston College, who the ‘Cats defeated 4-0. The ‘Cats followed up those wins with a 3-0 victory over No. 11 Liberty, who Northwestern beat to win the national championship in 2021, and then a 3-2 victory over No. 9 Virginia.
The ‘Cats eventually extended their season-opening win streak to eight games with a 4-3 win against Penn, and a 2-1 overtime victory over No. 8 Princeton. Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, all good things must come to an end.
While Northwestern was able to defeat Iowa in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2021 on their way to the title, the fifth-ranked Hawkeyes got their revenge in 2022 with a 2-0 victory over the ‘Cats, snapping Northwestern’s eight-game winning streak.
Northwestern did not suffer in the rankings as a result of their loss to Iowa, falling just one spot to No. 2, and rebounded from that Iowa loss by scoring five goals in their next two games, a 5-0 win over Richmond, and a 5-4 overtime win over No. 6 Penn State, during which the ‘Cats rallied from two goals down in the final 10 minutes of regulation.
After that win over Penn State, however, things took an unexpected turn for Northwestern. The ‘Cats went to overtime again in their next game, although this time around, they were unable to come through in overtime, resulting in a 2-1 loss against Maryland. Northwestern’s next game was against No. 23 Rutgers, and unfortunately, the ‘Cats lost that game 2-1 as well, giving Northwestern their first losing streak of the season.
While the loss only dropped Northwestern to a 10-3 record overall, the ‘Cats had only one Big Ten win: the overtime thriller against Penn State, Despite sitting at 1-3 in conference, Northwestern was not going down without a fight.
The first opportunity for Northwestern to bounce back from their losing streak was with a game against Michigan State, who was 6-6 on the season with an 0-5 record in Big Ten play heading into the game. The ‘Cats responded to that 2-1 loss in Piscataway with a 3-1 victory over Michigan State, but the reigning national champions were just getting started.
Northwestern looked to start a new win streak, and they were able to, defeating No. 21 Ohio State 2-1 in an overtime game on the road, allowing the ‘Cats to get to an even 3-3 record in conference, and setting up a top six matchup between No. 3 Northwestern and No. 6 Michigan.
The game was not the smoothest offensively on either side, with no scores in regulation. In the first overtime, the teams went scoreless as well, before Lauren Wadas scored in the second overtime to claim a 1-0 victory, and pushed Northwestern over .500 in Big Ten play for the first time in 2022.
Northwestern continued to hit their stride by going to Bloomington and claiming a 2-1 victory over Indiana before ending the regular season with a 3-1 victory over Miami (OH). The ‘Cats had a 1-3 stretch to start Big Ten play, but outside of that rough patch, Northwestern did not lose a game, and had a 15-3 record heading into the Big Ten Tournament.
Northwestern got a few feel-good wins to start out the Big Ten Tournament, avenging their mid-season two-game losing streak against Maryland and Rutgers with back-to-back 2-1 victories over No. 18 Rutgers (in OT) and No. 2 Maryland.
Those two victories set Northwestern up with a chance to defeat No. 6 Michigan to claim the seventh Big Ten Championship in program history, and the first since back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014. Unfortunately, this time around it would be Michigan who got their revenge on the ‘Cats, claiming a 2-1 victory over Northwestern to win the Big Ten Championship.
The ‘Cats turned their attention to the NCAA Tournament, which opened up with a rematch against No. 25 Miami (OH). The ‘Cats won that game in a dramatic shootout, moving on to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament, where they would have a chance to avenge the only previously unavenged loss of the year against Iowa.
This time around, the matchup with No. 11 Iowa, the same second-round matchup from the 2021 NCAA Tournament, was an even tighter game, and once again, Northwestern found itself in a shootout in an NCAA Tournament game. The ‘Cats won yet another shootout 4-3 (the same shootout score as the game against Miami (OH)), allowing them to advance to the Final Four.
With a spot in the National Championship game on the line, it was Northwestern against No. 2 Maryland for the third time this season. Northwestern claimed the 2-1 victory over Maryland to make it two in a row in postseason play against the Terrapins.
That meant Northwestern would be playing for a national championship, this time against No. 1 North Carolina, who the ‘Cats defeated 2-0 in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels led 1-0 with just under two minutes remaining before Bente Baekers came through in the clutch, tying the game up at one goal apiece. Unfortunately for Northwestern, North Carolina quickly answered back with another goal about a minute later, and took home the national championship with a 2-1 victory over Northwestern.
Although Northwestern’s season ended in shocking fashion, and the ‘Cats did not get their desired outcome, the ‘Cats lived up to their preseason expectations, getting within minutes from repeating as national champions. Northwestern responded from adversity in the middle of the season to end the regular season on a high note, and by the end of it all, tied a program record with 20 wins. 2022 was a special year for the ‘Cats, regardless of how it ended.