Defending national champion Northwestern pulls away from UMass field hockey

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  • UMass forward Alexa Collins battles’ Northwestern’s Maja Zivojnovic for a long ball Monday at Gladchuck Field in Amherst. The Minutewomen fell 4-1 against the No. 1-ranked Wildcats. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • UMass senior Jess Beech slaps the ball ahead against No. 1 Northwestern on Monday at Gladchuck Field in Amherst. The Minutewomen fell 4-1 against the Wildcats. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • UMass senior Jess Beech, right, carries the ball against No. 1 Northwestern on Monday at Gladchuck Field in Amherst. The Minutewomen fell 4-1 against the Wildcats. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • UMass’ Mia Smith, right, Collides with Northwestern’s Maja Zivojnovic on Monday at Gladchuck Field in Amherst. The Minutewomen fell 4-1 against the No. 1-ranked Wildcats. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • UMass goalie Myrte Van Herwijnen dives for a point-blank saveagainst Northwestern’s Maddie Zimmer on Monday at Gladchuck Field in Amherst. The Minutewomen fell 4-1 against the No. 1 Wildcats. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • UMass’ Mia Smith, right, battles for the ball against  Northwestern’s Maja Zivojnovic on Monday at Gladchuck Field in Amherst. The Minutewomen fell 4-1 against the No. 1-ranked Wildcats. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • UMass’ Emily Crawford controls the ball against No. 1 Northwestern on Monday at Gladchuck Field in Amherst. The Minutewomen fell 4-1 against the Wildcats. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • The UMass field hockey team celebrates a goal in the first period against No. 1 Northwestern on Monday at Gladchuck Field in Amherst. The Minutewomen fell 4-1 against the Wildcats. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer
Published: 8/29/2022 5:51:26 PM
Modified: 8/29/2022 5:47:46 PM

AMHERST — Championship aspirations require commensurate scrutiny.

The UMass field hockey team tested itself against the best the nation has to offer Monday, falling 4-1 against No. 1 Northwestern, the defending national champions.

“In order to be the best you have to play the best, and we wanted this challenge at the beginning of the season to see what we could do,” UMass senior Jess Beech said.

The No. 25 Minutewomen held strong against the Big Ten’s highest-scoring team last season. Freshman goalie Myrte Van Herwijnen turned away a career-high 16 shots, including a diving stop on what looked like a Maddie Zimmer tap in with 4 minutes, 44 seconds left in the first half.

“As a goalkeeper it helps so much when you can have that one game where you’re just getting in touch after touch and you start to get into the flow and the confidence just builds,” said UMass coach Barb Weinberg, a former goalie herself. “So I think as the season goes on, she’s going to continue to grow into that position.”

UMass (1-1) found its footing in the first half after a shaky start. Northwestern (2-0) attacked their cage relentlessly in the first few minutes. UMass’ Josie Rossbach slid to the turf to knock away a surefire goal that beat Van Herwijnen.

Bente Baekers, currently the nation’s leading scorer with six in two games, broke through for Northwestern 4:27 in to make it 1-0. Rather than dropping their heads, the Minutewomen redoubled their defensive focus, turning away two Northwestern penalty corners.

UMass installed a fresh press for the Wildcats and executed it crisply to generate opportunities.

“They have a couple players that are a huge threat in the midfield, we had to have a plan for being able to counter them because they just have so much speed,” Weinberg said. “The goal was to not let them played on the sidelines. We were trying to force them into the pockets.”

The Minutewomen earned their own penalty corner on a counter attack 13:44 in that Beech turned into a goal. Mali Heberhold earned the assist that tied the game.

“We knew that we would be more defensive this game and that we had to take care of our momentum going forward,” Beech said. “We capitalized when we could.”

Lane Herbert regained the Northwestern lead with 8:26 to halftime assisted by Kayla Blas and Peyton Halsey.

“Against the No. 1 in the country that’s such a feat,” Beech said. “And something that I’m really proud of my team is just pushing through like we fought until the very end and couldn’t be more proud of the girls.”

Northwestern pulled away in the second half with penalty corner goals from Baekers and Halsey. The Wildcats accumulated 16 penalty corners to four for UMass, 10 of which came after halftime.

“When you have a unit that is so strong like that they have two very good slappers from the top of the circle,” Weinberg said. “If you give up so many corners, they’re eventually going to start to score.”

The Pioneer Valley field hockey community enjoyed the fireworks. Youth and high school programs attended the game as groups, and the Amherst College squad watched for some film study and to support friends.

UMass showed it belonged on the same field with Northwestern, and Monday isn’t the Minutewomen’s only chance at top-flight competition. They have a dates at No. 5 Iowa (Sept. 11( on the schedule as well as the increasingly competitive Atlantic 10 slate, which includes No. 16 Saint Joseph’s.

“The last thing we said to the team was onwards and upwards. I think we’ll take many lessons from this game against Northwestern and our let’s say six year evolution of being able to really battle with a national championship team,” Weinberg said. “These games are going to help us with our tough opponents down the road.”


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