RICHMOND, Va. – The fingernails of the Virginia Commonwealth University field hockey coaching staff needed a break after two tough one-goal losses in New York last weekend.

Sophomore Arialle Hess (Allentown, Pa.) and her teammates delivered that break with a decisive 4-1 victory over Big Ten power Northwestern at Cary Street Field on Friday afternoon.

"I'm really, really proud of our girls and the way continued to fight tonight," Head Coach Kelly McQuade said. "After two close games last week, our depth really gave us great minutes today and we were able to keep the pressure on them for 70 minutes."

After the two teams traded possession for most of the first two minutes, Hess, a transfer from Temple, fought for a loose ball in front of the cage and flipped in her first goal in the Black & Gold to give VCU a 1-0 advantage in the ninth minute.

Chelsea Armstrong helped Northwestern climb back into it as she gathered a loose ball in front and found a streaking Reagan Mooney, who flicked in her second goal of the year and evened the score at 1-1 in the 21st minute.

A beautifully executed corner gave the Rams a 2-1 lead heading into the intermission as Stephanie DeMasi (Virginia Beach, Va.) send a pass to Flore van Dessel (Oisterwijk, The Netherlands), who set up sophomore Kelsey Scherrer (Chesapeake, Va.) for her second goal of the season.

Hess would give the Black & Gold some breathing room in the 47th minute as she dribbled through the Wildcat defense and blasted a shot home for a 3-1 advantage.

Freshman Emilie Soares (Santa Clara, Calif.) put the game away as she battled for a rebound and finally was able to tally her first collegiate goal in the 57th minute.

As potent as the offense was, the backline of the Black & Gold, which features all underclassmen, was stellar, holding Northwestern to just one defensive corner.

"The defensive corners were something that we had trouble with up in New York, but our girls worked hard this week and it really showed today," McQuade said. "Just an outstanding job by the whole team and hopefully we can carry that momentum into tomorrow."

The Rams will be back in action tomorrow afternoon when the Hawks of St. Joe's visit Cary Street Field for a 1 p.m. contest.