No. 5 Northwestern lacrosse (9-3, 2-1) had no trouble dispatching Rutgers (1-13, 0-3) in Piscataway, N.J. on Friday night, as the Wildcats put in an impressive all-around performance on the way to an 18-6 victory.
Senior Kara Mupo led all scorers with four goals, including two wonderful individual efforts. For the first, she picked up a bouncing ball and immediately slung it past the Rutgers' goalie; for the second, she spun past one defender before finishing the shot underhanded past the keeper. Wunderkind freshman Selena Lasota also added two goals, while junior Kaleigh Craig scored two more and had an assist.
Northwestern had a balanced scoring attack on the night, with twelve Wildcats getting on the scorecard. Freshman Hayley Ciklin tallied two goals. Fellow freshman Corinne Wessels also had a goal and two assists.
The game started out as a tight affair -- it was 2-2 midway through the first half. Though Northwestern dominated possession throughout, the Scarlet Knights' defense held firm early on, and two early goals made NU sweat.
But the Wildcats remained persistent in their attack and in the end, Rutgers could not sustain their wall of defense as Northwestern laid siege to the Scarlet Knights goal. Compounding the problem for the home team was their sloppy play – the Scarlet Knights weren't able to get the ball much and when they did manage to, their off-target passing and poor ball security gave the ball right back to Northwestern.
It wasn't all bad for the Scarlet Knights though, as senior standout Lauren Sbrilli finished her last home game with a hat trick. But it was too little too late as the hosts were overwhelmed by the more talented Wildcats.
The worry here is, much like the Michigan game, the sheer talent gap between the two teams means any takeaways will be hard to apply to, say, a potential Maryland rematch in the Final Four. Yes, Northwestern dominated in the draw circle and yes, it was 18-6. But Rutgers is 1-13 on the year and gave up 19 goals to James Madison earlier this year.
My takeaway from this game is coach Kelly Amonte Hiller had her young team playing sharp on the road and taking care of business against a team they should be taking care of business against. In the first leg of their East Coast road trip, the Wildcats looked sharp and dominated.
Northwestern has Stony Brook coming up on Sunday before traveling to South Bend to take on Notre Dame next Thursday. Then the team finishes up its Big Ten schedule at home against Penn State and Ohio State.