EVANSTON, Ill. – Labor Day weekend is a popular time for many people to flock to popular amusement parks and pile in long lines to ride roller coasters. Those roller coasters are enjoyed by millions across the country.
The VCU Field Hockey team took its coaching staff and fans on an early roller coaster ride, but the ride stopped a little short in a 2-1 loss at Big Ten power, Northwestern. A late push by the Black & Gold provided plenty of opportunities, but the tying goal was not to be found.
"I'm obviously disappointed by the result," Head Coach Kelly McQuade said. "I thought we played a strong first half and finished strong, but the start of the second half hurt us. We have to be able to put together a full 70 minutes of hockey and we haven't done that yet."
It was a defensive battle early with neither team getting any scoring chances early.
VCU's first real chance came in the 18th minute when they turned around a Northwestern corner and bolted down the field. Junior Kelsey Scherrer broke up the Wildcat corner and outleted a pass to sophomore Kelsey Powell on the left sideline. Powell found classmate Emilie Soares on the right side who slid in a shot for Scherrer to chip in, but the connection was just off the mark.
The Wildcats would test the Black & Gold defense late in the first half, but wouldn't find the back of the cage as the teams headed to halftime in a scoreless tie.
Northwestern would come out firing in the second half, nearly scoring less than a minute into the stanza. The Wildcat pressure would finally break through as Reagan Mooney slid a shot past senior Erin Jablonski to claim a 1-0 advantage.
About 10 minutes later, 2010 All-American Chelsea Armstrong would push the lead to 2-0 with sixth goal this year.
That's when the Rams woke up and their aggressiveness would pay off with three corners in a three-minute period, but the Wildcats back line would not allow VCU to find the back of the cage with any of them.
Junior Arialle Hess, who seemed to give Northwestern fits all day, finally got the Black & Gold on the board in the 63rd minute when she flicked in a loose ball from close range to cut the deficit to 2-1. It was the first goal that the Wildcats had given up all year, which includes over 200 minutes of play.
Sophomore Kayla Mueller would help create pressure from the midfield, but ultimately the Rams were unable to find the game-tying goal as Northwestern held on for their third win of the year.
"I was really pleased with the way Kayla played today," McQuade said. "We've been really looking that from her all year and she stepped up and really created some opportunities for us. If she can continue to be that presence on the right side, we'll be in good shape the rest of the way."
The Black & Gold wrap up their stay in Chicago with a neutral site match against 17th-ranked Albany on Saturday afternoon at Lakeside Field. Game time is set for 1 p.m.