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Northwestern embarrassed by Notre Dame, 15-3, season ends in Sweet Sixteen

Slow start, turnovers doom Wildcats in NCAA Tournament.

Northwestern came out sloppy, with four turnovers on its first five possessions, and never recovered, losing in South Bend to Notre Dame by a score of 15-3 in the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen. The loss ends the Wildcats' season short of the Final Four for the second straight season after the program made every Final Four from 2005 to 2014.

The Wildcats found themselves down 4-0 early, with really only themselves to blame. They committed four in the first 10 minutes, and the marking defensively was shoddy at best. The first goal came just over a minute in from Casey Muller, who found herself wide open in front of the net. Casey Pearsall, Rachel Sexton and Cortney Fortunato all scored within the first 10:03, and with 19:57 remaining in the first half, the Wildcats were down 4-0.

Northwestern started its comeback attempt with back-to-back goals from Christina Esposito (free position) and Kaleigh Craig, but Fortunato and Muller answered for the hosts. With 10 minutes to go in the first half, the Wildcats were outshot 13-4.

Selena Lasota was able to grab one back for NU to pull within 6-3, but the Irish scored again with two minutes left in the half, making it 7-3. Fittingly, NU's final first-half possession ended with a turnover, its 13th of the first 30 minutes.

The second half was no better, as the Irish scored twice in the first six minutes or so, making it 9-3. Northwestern needed a fast start to get back into things. Instead, it fell further behind. Fortunato completed her hat trick to make it 10-3, and the contest was all but over. Forced to press to try to try to get goals quickly, Northwestern's defense unraveled and left keeper Mallory Weisse with a lot of one-on-ones to try to stop. More often than not, Notre Dame came out on top, not to the fault of the freshman goalie, who actually played well for the most part.

It was a disastrous second half for a team that had looked so good just days ago against Louisville. The Wildcats were thoroughly dominated: Outshot 35-16 while losing the turnover margin 21-16.