Strong second half puts Northwestern over UMass 4-1

Myrte van Herwijnen makes 16 saves in the loss for the Minutewomen

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Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian

By Lulu Kesin, Sports Editor

After a competitive opening half from the Massachusetts field hockey team, it was ultimately the reigning national champions who closed out Monday afternoon’s showdown, as Northwestern took the 4-1 win in Amherst.

Following an overtime win over Maine on Saturday, it was no surprise that with the No. 1 team in the country heading into town, things would be different. Most of the play against the Black Bears sat in control of UMass’ (1-1) forwards but on Monday, it was the defense who got their taste of pressure for nearly four straight quarters.

The Wildcats’ (2-0) offense held control for most of the game, giving the Minutewomen minimal breaks to stop the pounding effort.

“We felt that player for player we could play with them,” head coach Barb Weinberg said postgame. “I am super proud of our defensive effort today, as a unit they played incredible.”

Northwestern junior midfielder Maddie Zimmer’s speed alone was enough for UMass to make a game plan for. Weinberg explained that in attempt to not allow her freedom to create seamless transitions, the Minutewomen knew to force her inside into the pockets, instead of playing down the sideline. Zimmer’s high-level IQ recognized the press, and fed others, making the game plan effective but giving UMass more area to cover.

In the opening quarter, it shaped up to be anyone’s game. An absolute rocket from Bente Baekers off a corner penalty at the 12-minute mark drew first blood in favor of the Wildcats, but Jess Beech’s momentum shifting closer turned things around.

Even with most of the play in UMass’ circle, the sole corner opportunity for the Minutewomen in the first quarter tied things up. Freshman Mali Herberhold, who took home the game winner in extra minutes on Saturday had UMass’ only assist of the day. Off the corner play, she found Beech for the tip from the left side.

Monday’s efforts were led by the senior midfielder, as Beech managed to impact play on both ends of the field.

“I think it was a fantastic effort from both sides,” midfielder Jess Beech said. “I think we were really gritty to end the first half … we fought until the very end and I couldn’t be more proud of the girls for that.”

In the opening minutes of the third quarter, Northwestern had three straight corner opportunities. The first of which sent Beech to the ground, making a diving effort to stop the ball at the top of the circle. The second, Beech cleanly blocked the shot without falling to the ground and managed to find Emilie Keij for the clear. Two huge opportunities for the Wildcats were stopped solely by Beech’s effort on the corner plays.

Freshman goalkeeper for the Minutewomen Myrte van Herwijnen faced 32 shots, 20 on goal in just her second collegiate game. Herwijnen made 16 saves on the day, even when faced with 16 different corner penalty attempts.

Northwestern had a chance to go 2-1 on a corner with the clock nearing the end of the first but Herwijnen’s epic save changed things up. Off the save, the ball found Dempsey Campbell who brought it into the circle, drawing the corner play that ultimately set Beech up to tie things 1-1.

The freshman continued her efforts to step outside the goal and clear what could have been multiple occasions of a wide-open Wildcat goal. The defensive effort kept the Minutewomen in the game as UMass lost the shooting battle with just three total shots on goal, drawing only four total corners.

“Onwards and upwards,” is the message Weinberg echoed post game, acknowledging the growth that will result from top-tier competition like the Wildcats. With Iowa on the schedule for September, and league play against quality Atlantic 10 opponents in Saint Joseph’s not far behind, Weinberg feels Monday’s efforts will pay off.

“To be the best you have to beat the best … we wanted this challenge at the beginning of the season to see what we could do … if we could take the No.1 team in the country at halftime 2-1 I’m going to take that every day,” Beech said.

UMass sets sights closer to home, in preparation to welcome UMass Lowell to Amherst on Friday, Sept. 2 at 3 p.m.

Lulu Kesin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @lulukesin.