Whaddup national championships! (sorry this took til after Memorial Day - I should get a computer that works.)
Northwestern beat Maryland 8-7 REVENNNNNNNNNNNNGE in the final to seal their sixth national championship in seven years, also, the sixth national championship in any sport in school history. (This is our life.) To be honest, it was a pretty thrilling game: The Terps quickly jumped out to a 4-1 lead in very little time with pinpoint passing thanks to defensive breakdowns by NU, but once the Cats started winning draw controls, they rallied back with a long-range goal by Jessica Russo tying the game at 5 to enter the half. In the second half, goalie Brianne LoManto made some absurd saves to hold on to what was pretty much always a slim lead, with Maryland cutting it to one with just over a minute to go, eventually falling short as Northwestern maintained possession.
When the NCAA Tournament started, one day at the Daily, we needed to fill some space. I suggested to our lacrosse writer, Colin Becht (who did a pretty awesome job all season) that we do a mockup of the bracket and he pick his winners. Considering they had won the last matchup and only lost once in the regular season, he picked Maryland.
The lacrosse team FLIPPED.
To them, this was bulletin board material. We do football predictions every week in the fall, and we often don't pick Northwestern. After all, if we picked them every week, we'd be boring, wrong, and awful reporters, and the same applied to lacrosse. But even though we had picked the lacrosse team to win the ALC Championship (over a Florida team they had lost to) and picking them to beat a lot of really good teams to make it to the championship game, we had blasphemed (culminating in this tweet).
I think that outrage at a pretty minor thing is a testament to this team: they're the best, and the fact that someone could hypothetically pick them to be second-best is absurd. Congrats to them for showing that that's true.
I'm obviously not a lacrosse expert, but, I'll analyze/describe stuff after that jump.
- Shannon Smith is GULLY. The junior is pretty much the best player in the nation, and proved it by bringing home Tournament MVP after notching four goals on six shots. She has a knack for keeping the ball low where my friend noted it seems, like, disproportionately more difficult to save shots (considering how much of a goalie's body mass and stick are above their waist). She had a brilliant underhanded goal in the first half that made me intrigued.
- Northwestern is absolutely dope at maintaining possession of the ball. Maryland did its best work in transition, but NU just holds, with Smith roaming behind the net (sometimes not doing anything for 20-30 seconds at a time FEEL THE EXCITEMENT). When they went up two with little time left, you had a feeling it was over.
- A lot of that feeling comes from Alyssa Leonard's dominance on draw controls. The referees (all of whom were identical middle-aged women) had problems with something she was doing in the first half, but she figured it out and wouldn't lose them for most of the rest of the game. When NU is as good as holding the ball as they are, not much Maryland could do.
- I already mentioned Brianne LoManto, but, jesus. Things that impressed: one time, Maryland's premier attacker Sarah Mollison had a legit breakaway. Like, she was running full speed. Like, as fast as she could. With nobody in between her and the keeper. This is generally what those in the lacrosse business refer to as "the goals", according to me. Instead, it was "a save", which is a technical term. Another time, a one-on-one shot hit off her shin and rolled back to the net in a scene I saw multiple times in my IM soccer goalie career, but she spun around, dove back and trapped it in her stick to keep it from being a flukey goal. Not bad.
- This happened (and I'm forced to acknowledge that the person who noticed it was Daniel Hessel, because he said "YOU BETTER GIVE ME A SHOUT-OUT")
- It was an example of the high production values on the game broadcast. Although it's good to see that one of the 10-year-olds in my group when I was a camp counselor a few years back found a job as a professional women's lax announcer.
- Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller is preggers. That baby is going to be INTENSE.
- I watched the game in my house's TV room, meaning there were about eight people cracking wise about a game none of us understood for an hour. Except one guy who played lax in high school and kept dropping technical terms to impress us. ("She's trying to pull a bulldog here" or something to that extent was my fave.)
- Seriously, what's a seawolf?
- A lot of NU fans at the game - presumably family members of the team (considering it was in Long Island), but, still, cool to see.
- The last few minutes of the game were drastic. Maryland started really pressing and hitting to get possession needing scores fast: NU did a good job of holding on (with a few miscues) and making big stops when needed. Even Maryland's last goal came after a flurry of LoManto saves.
- Taylor Thornton is alarmingly fast compared to anybody else.
Which is why it made sense that with about ten seconds left, they gave her the ball so she could sprint to the other end of the field and throw the ball really high.(Editors note: This was Amanda Macaluso. My b!)