Nothing cures a case of the blues quite like playing Michigan, at least in women's lacrosse.
Northwestern (5-6), having lost back-to-back games and three of its last four, came out determined against a Michigan team (5-7) that is probably the easiest opponent left on the schedule and did not let up. The hosts won 20-4 on a chilly day by Lake Michigan, bringing them to 1-1 in Big Ten play.
"We want to make this field our own," said Kim Harker, a freshman who notched her first career goal. "We want to make our mark on this field so any time we're home, we're going to try and make our mark and make the opponent feel us, on our field."
Selena Lasota, after being held scoreless in her last two games, started this game with a bang. She won a free position shot and converted it with her trademark one step and fire technique, less than one minute into the game. After Christina Esposito made it 2-0 a few minutes later, Lasota added her second 40 seconds later. She would finish with 5 in the first half and 6 in the game.
"She played and just did her thing," said coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. "She played free and went out there and was dynamic for the first time in a while, so that was exciting. That obviously helps the team game, too."
Esposito has continued to step up in the absence of versatile midfielder Sheila Nesselbush who is out for the season with a lower leg injury. She had another good game today, finishing with a hat trick and 2 assists, as well.
The Wildcats would make it 5-0 less than 10 minutes into the game after Lasota's third and a slick goal from Catie Ingrilli. Ingrilli took the ball at the top of the key and weaved her way to the goal before finishing through the legs of Michigan keeper, Allison Silber.
With 14:20 left in the first half, the score reached 10-0, meaning the clock would not stop for dead balls or after goals unless the deficit was cut to single-digits.
Michigan was able to score its first goal of the game after nearly 40 minutes of gameplay, when Jess Angerman fought her way through contact to finish past Northwestern keeper Mallory Weisse, who had had a relatively stress-free evening but nevertheless had some solid saves.
For much of the second half, fans were able to see the next generation of Wildcats on display, as Amonte Hiller put in much of her second string to gain some experience while up more than 15. Freshmen like Harker, Leighton Yenor and Nell Copeland all saw time on the field and showed their talent and the potential they possess for the future.
"They all really stepped up," Amonte Hiller said. "They did a great job off the bench and we were really pleased with that. We had a couple of great performances. We were really excited to get people in and they showed what they could do."
Eleven different Wildcats found the back of the net, and three different players, senior Carolina Lizzio, the freshman Harker and Lindsay Darrell, notched their first career goals in the game.
Part of the problem for Michigan was a lack of possession. Teams can make runs in women's lacrosse easily because once a team scores, there is a draw control that is up for grabs and if the scoring team controls it, it can go right back on offense. Northwestern was able to do this in the first half, dominating in the draw control circle, 13-3, as well as in shots, 21-1. Sophomore Shelby Fredericks continued her impressive play in the circle.
Another positive development the Wildcats can take away was their defense. Michigan did not have the ball much, but when it did, Northwestern sent hard and aggressive double teams, often forcing turnovers and getting the ball back. A similar strategy keyed the team's comeback last week against Penn, although the Wildcats eventually dropped the game in overtime.
In a game with such a gap in skill level, it is not wise to look too far into anything, but Northwestern fans would hope this game can kickstart the team in what has been a disappointing season thus far.