There’s only one thing harder than winning a championship: winning back-to-back championships. Northwestern, currently ranked number 2 after a recent loss to #3 Iowa (9-2, 3-1 B1G), will be attempting this feat after an incredible 2021 season where they finished as field hockey national champions. It won’t be an easy road, however, as they enter Big Ten competition with a record of 10-2 (1-2 B1G).
If the Wildcats are going to repeat as champs, they’ll have to do it without some of last year’s important stalwarts. Defensive backer Maddie Backsai, offensive forward Clara Roth, and midfielder/forward Maren Seidel. Backsai put in the most minutes of any Wildcat last season while Roth and Seidel were the team’s second and third leading scorers, respectively. “Who was number one,” you ask? All-American fifth-year forward Bente Baekers, whom the Wildcats are very glad has returned.
Of the key returners, Baekers is the most dangerous for opponents to face. She leads the nation in goals per game (1.50), and has helped Northwestern achieve the sixth-highest goals/game and seventh-highest margin of victory averages this year.
Fifth-year backer/midfielder Kayla Blas is crucial in the scoring game as well. Her eight assists pave the way for the ’Cats to be tied for sixth in the nation in assists per game. When Northwestern has the ball, they know what to do with it and always find the open woman.
Junior midfielders Lauren Wadas and 2021 NCAA Tournament MVP Maddie Zimmer both finished in the top six of Wildcats in scored points – both goals and assists – combined in 2021. Wadas in particular is a physical midfielder who is just as dangerous on defense as she is on offense. She makes junior goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz’s job a little easier, not that she needs it; Skubisz is currently 21st in the country in goals against average this year. Zimmer meanwhile would follow the championship campaign by playing for the US Women’s National Team alongside fellow Wildcat senior midfielder/backer Alia Marshall.
The veterans and usual suspects won’t have to finish this season alone. Senior midfielder Peyton Halsey has been a proven compliment to Baekers play as the team’s second leading scorer and top five assister. First-year backer Maja Zivojnovic looks to bolster coming all the way from the Netherlands where she spent 10 years dominating on a club team and currently sits at sixth on the team in minutes played with 615.
With the mix of new faces and old, everyone has one thing in common. They all want to win. This team still retains top talent and recruited well to fill gaps. They have already beat seven opponents ranked in the top 25. You’d be hard-pressed to say that they have regressed at all. Just know that no matter who is on the field for the Wildcats, they will always be a threat.