Bell’s team eyes gateway to wins

By Todd McMahon

St. Louis, Mo., is historically known as the “gateway to the West.”

Now, the NIU field hockey team hopes the city home to the Arch will be the gateway to a few victories.

The Huskies (1-8-1) will travel to Saint Louis University this weekend to play three games in as many days. What should help is that NIU will not be facing any conference foes.

On Friday, the Huskies meet Southwest Missouri State University at 2 p.m. The Bears (5-3-2) will be the only team with a winning record NIU will face in Billiken country.

The University of Louisville will face off with Laurie Bell’s squad Saturday at 2 p.m. The Cardinals come into the contest one win better than NIU with a season record of 2-7-1.

The Huskies conclude the triple-threat weekend with a game Sunday at 10 a.m. against little-known Eastern Kentucky University. The Colonels sport the same 2-7-1 record as Louisville heading into this weekend.

With the opponents’ combined record of 9-17-4, things could look promising for NIU. But the Huskies themselves have been in a rut of their own lately.

After posting their only victory of the year on Sept. 16 against Saint Louis at Huskie Stadium, the Huskies have gone winless in their last five games, 0-4-1, all against conference opposition.

Coach Laurie Bell sees part of the recent swoon due to a lack of confidence by her players. “Right now, we’ve lost a lot of confidence,” she said.

“If we can build our confidence up a little, we can be a much better team. We play a lot better out there if we come in with confidence.”

Getting away from the rigors of conference play should help regain some of that lost confidence the next three days. “Our schedule has been rough,” Bell said, “and many of our conference opponents are ranked nationally.”

Included in those five league games were a tie and a close defeat against Top-10 Northwestern, a heartbreaking loss to Top-20 Michigan and a shutout at the hands of fourth-ranked Iowa. The last loss of the current streak came last Sunday, a 2-1 victory by Ohio State at Evanston.

“We were looking at a 2-0 deficit most of the day and were worried about having to try and come back,” Bell said. “When you get in a hole like that, it takes the air out of your tires.”

Junior defender Kristina Hahn continues to be the leader for NIU at the midway point of the season. She leads the team with three goals, six total points, and 21 total shots on goal.

Freshman goalkeeper Gretchen Splinter is also contributing immensely. In nine games, she has made 86 saves while allowing only 34 goals for a .717 save percentage against some of the nation’s best.