Field hockey squad to host Big Ten foes

By Todd McMahon

The temporary “vacation” is over for the NIU field hockey team and now it is time to take care of business starting this weekend.

After playing five games (four on the road) in 10 days, the Huskies deserved a much-needed rest before starting Midwestern Collegiate Field Hockey Conference play. NIU’s last game was a 1-0 victory over Saint Louis University on Sept. 16.

The Huskies (1-4) face national power Northwestern University Friday at 3 p.m. at Huskie Stadium. NIU will then come back Sunday and do battle with the University of Michigan at 11 a.m. at the “doghouse.”

“This was a good time to get a break in,” NIU head coach Laurie Bell said. “The league will be tough, and we needed to improve on a few more things before we get out there again.”

Northwestern comes into the league opener with a record of 4-2 and sights set on another conference crown. The Wildcats shared the conference title with the University of Iowa last year by going 9-1. They finished the year 15-3-1 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

“Northwestern is consistently a Top-20 team every year,” Bell said. The Wildcats reached the final four in 1988 and 1989.

Marisa Didio is in her second year as coach at Northwestern and has a team almost similar to NIU. The Wildcats have nine freshmen on the roster, but the leader is senior co-captain Colleen Senich.

The midfielder/defensive back had 16 goals last season and earned the conference’s defensive player of the year award.

By sharp contrast, Michigan returns the experience and depth from last year’s team that finished fifth in the league with a record of 3-6-1 (12-7-2 overall). Thirteen letterwinners return for third-year coach Patti Smith.

NIU would like to improve on last year’s third-place finish in the conference but Bell admits there are no easy games within the league. “This is a very difficult conference, and I don’t see any weaknesses in it,” the sixth-year coach said.

Sophomore Kristen Felter leads NIU with three points (goal and assist), while freshman Becky Walker has added two assists on the year for a couple of points. Junior Tina Hahn leads the offensive charge with one goal and nine total shots on goal.

On the defensive side, sophomore Wendy Hozempa leads with four defensive saves, while freshman Gretchen Splinter continues to shine in goal. She recorded the shutout against Saint Louis and has saved 36 shots on the year while allowing only 19 goals for a .655 save percentage.