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Louisville-Northwestern NCAA Tournament Preview

Fresh off their first-ever NCAA tournament victory, the Louisville Cardinals (16-3) play No. 5 Northwestern (12-6) at Lakeside Field Sunday in the round of 16. Here is a quick guide to this second round matchup:

Getting to know Louisville’s explosive offense:

- Louisville ranks fifth in the nation in scoring offense at 14.67 goals per game. The Cards have the third most potent offense NU has faced this season, behind Florida and North Carolina.

- UL is led by the dynamic duo of senior Nikki Boltja (71 goals, 27 assists) and Fave Brust (69 goals and 7 assists). Boltja and Brust are the second and third highest scorers in the nation and each average nearly four goals per game.

Who has the edge in the all-important draw circle?

- This might surprise you but Louisville actually has the slight edge here statistically.

- The Cardinals have one of the two players in the nation with more draw controls than Alyssa Leonard this season. Sophomore Kaylin Morissette is second in the nation with 166 draw controls (8.7 per game) compared to Leonard’s single-season NU record of 144 (8 per game).

- This season NU has won 62 percent of draw controls and LU has won 67 percent.

Lack of familiarity:

- In their only meeting back in 2012 Northwestern drubbed Louisville 16-7. Kara Mupo had five goals in that game. The Cards finished that season with three wins.

- Fast forward two years and Louisville is a completely different team. UL won the Big East regular season and championship. The Cards are currently on a 12-game winning streak. Their last loss was two weeks before NCAA March Madness began (3/9).

- UL has losses at Notre Dame (score of 12-9), at Duke (score of 14-11) and at Ohio State (12-11 final). Louisville avenged that loss to the Buckeyes Friday night with a double overtime victory 11-10 at Lakeside.

- NU lost 9-8 to Notre Dame at home this season. The Cats also beat Duke 12-11 early in the season. NU split two close ones with OSU. The last team UL and NU have in common this season is Vanderbilt. Louisville beat Vandy 18-14 on the road in OT and the Cats beat Vandy twice by a combined nine goals (both were at home).

Bottom line:

Louisville should be a little drained after its marathon victory over OSU Friday. And Northwestern has had all week to rest/regroup from Sunday’s emotional loss to Florida. Kerri Harrington and Bridget Bianco will have their hands full with the UL offense and draw controls will be hard to come by for Leonard, but the Cats will score enough (I predict a big game from Mupo) to remain undefeated at home in NCAA tournament action under Kelly Amonte Hiller.

Leonard, Harrington and their fellow seniors will manage to extend their playing careers for at least another game and earn a shot at revenge in Gainesville. 12-10 Cats.

Opening draw is at 1 p.m.