Northwestern battled valiantly, but came up well short against Maryland in the Big Ten Championship. The No. 1 team in the country executed flawlessly on offense and captured its second consecutive Big Ten title behind 4 goals from leading scorer Caroline Steele.
Earlier this year, Maryland (19-0) defeated Northwestern (10-0) by 11 goals in Evanston. The Terrapins were just too good for the Wildcats once again. Northwestern’s offense just could not get anything past Maryland’s swarming defenders in the early going. Meanwhile, Maryland ground out four goals past Mallory Weisse, putting Northwestern down 4-0 after 15 minutes.
Nicole Beardsley finally put Northwestern on the scoreboard to make it 4-1, but Maryland continued to dominate, immediately picking up another goal from Zoe Stukenberg. The two teams traded goals again, but Maryland stepped off the gas pedal just before halftime and the Wildcats took advantage. Goals from Christina Esposito and Danita Stroup made it 6-4 heading into halftime, with Maryland likely angry that it could not put the game away in the first half.
These two teams faced off in last year’s Big Ten Championship game. Last time, Northwestern held the game close before the Terps ran away with it in the second half. It was the same story on Sunday in 2017. Northwestern began the second half down three, but ten minutes later it was 9-4.
In a familiar story for the Wildcats, Northwestern won a faire share of draw controls but could not capitalize. The offense stalled out and Maryland jumped on a 5-0 run in the second half to really ice the deal. Northwestern failed to mount any serious comeback, even with an extra woman on the field for three minutes, and the Terrapins closed out the game for yet another Big Ten title.
Maryland’s switch to the Big Ten has met mixed results in men’s basketball and football, but it has given the Terrapins’ women’s lacrosse team ample opportunity to solidify the shift in power in women’s lacrosse over the past five years. Maryland defeated Northwestern in the semifinals en route to the 2014 National Championship before switching over to the Big Ten. In three seasons, Northwestern has never beaten Maryland. They haven’t even played too many close games. Although this year’s contests came without Northwestern’s star goalscorer Selena Lasota, it’s still been painful to watch.
For supporters of Northwestern women’s lacrosse during the 2000s, Northwestern’s recent struggles against Maryland have been immensely concerning. Maryland has outscored Northwestern 86-40 in six meetings since 2014.
Northwestern will almost certainly receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament tonight. Hopefully, the team can catch fire in the postseason and play like they did again Penn State on Friday.