By Andy MacDougall, News Staff
The last time the Northeastern field hockey team spent its weekend in Louisville, Ky., the team had immense success. With an invite to the Sherrill Brakmeier Classic last fall, Northeastern emerged victorious over a pair of Top-25 opponents in Louisville and Northwestern.
But with a return trip to the Bluegrass State, this season’s Huskies failed to feel at home in Kentucky, dropping a pair of matches to Michigan State and Louisville by scores of 2-0 and 2-1, respectively.
“I think we were all disappointed about how we came out and played against Michigan State,” head coach Cheryl Murtagh said. “Not taking anything away from Michigan State – they played well that day – but I felt that, for whatever reason, we didn’t compete the way we did especially against Louisville in the first half and for so much of the game on Sunday.
“That was disappointing, but it was good to see the team turn around quickly and come out the way they did against Louisville, confident, with much better defense.”
Northeastern (3-4) entered Louisville’s Trager Stadium Friday night having defeated Michigan State twice in the past two years; a 5-0 decision over the Spartans in 2011 before a 3-1 victory over MSU last fall.
The Spartans (3-6) controlled the pace early, placing a barrage of shots on Northeastern netminder Becky Garner. The freshman was able to deflect seven shots on net in the opening frame, equaling her career high for any match in just 35 minutes of action.
With just over two minutes remaining in the first half, Michigan State finally found the back of the cage. Allie Ahern took a feed from Mallory Tyler in front of the net and was able to bury the open look for the 1-0 advantage heading into halftime.
Following a 20-minute weather delay two minutes into the second half, the Spartans padded their lead. Kristen Henn redirected a corner shot from Jenni Smith past Garner and the Husky defense to put Michigan State in control, up 2-0.
On offense, the Huskies were only able to muster two shots on Michigan State goalie Molly Cassidy, including a promising look by Jessica Unger off a corner from Lindsay Bennett in the second half. On the other side of the field, Garner established a new career-high with 10 saves in the match.
After finding their stride late in the Michigan State game, the Huskies carried momentum into their date with the host Cardinals (6-2), who entered Sunday afternoon’s game ranked 19th in the country.
Northeastern struck first with a goal just four minutes into the game. Louisville goalkeeper Sydney King was able to stop a shot from Northeastern’s Natalie Stewart, but Bennett pounced on the rebound for her third goal of the season and a 1-0 Husky lead.
The Huskies maintained their lead well into the second half, even as the Cardinals mounted a 10-3 penalty corner advantage, but Louisville’s offense was poised to break through. With less than 15 minutes remaining, Kelsey Rosenmeier’s pass found Erin Schneidtmiller at the left post to knot the game at one apiece.
Seven-and-a-half minutes later, Louisville’s Alyssa Voelmle redirected a penalty corner bid past Garner to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead they would hold onto for the win.
“The outcome of the Louisville game is not what we wanted,” Bennett said, “but overall as a team we felt like we played the best 55 minutes of the season. We’re taking all the positives from Louisville and moving forward.”
Coupled with the loss to New Hampshire on Sept. 15, the Huskies are in the midst of their first three-game slide since losing three in a row – the first of which was also to New Hampshire – in September 2011.
After playing four of their last five on the road, the Huskies will host eight of their next 10 matches at Solomon Field in Dedham. The team will open the home stand with its first league game against Hofstra Friday at 7 p.m. before welcoming cross-town rival Boston College Sunday at 2 p.m.