Maryland (15-1, 5-0 in conference) has not lost a home game since 2012. They haven’t lost to Northwestern at home since 2006, and they’ve won the Big Ten regular season title each of the three years since its inception. Tonight, the seventh-ranked Wildcats (13-3, 5-0) will attempt to change all of that.
After going to the national championship game in each of the last five seasons, the third-ranked Terrapins have looked vulnerable at times this year. Their only loss was early in the season against No. 5 North Carolina, who Northwestern also lost to, but just two weeks ago they were severely tested by No. 18 Princeton in a one-goal win. However, Maryland is riding a 13-game winning streak and has rolled through Big Ten competition, with an average margin of victory of nine goals in conference play.
Northwestern, coming in with its own eight-game winning streak, has made mincemeat of conference competition as well, with a Big Ten average victory margin of 8 goals. The Wildcats have scored in bunches recently, led by seniors Selena Lasota, Sheila Nesselbush and Shelby Fredericks.
Nesselbush has 29 goals over her last eight games, while Lasota, one of the leading scorers in program history, is leading the team with 45 on the season (and has 20 in her past five games). Fredericks, who keys the team’s successful draw-control strategy by gaining control off of the draw 103 times in just 12 games (which is second-best in the country and best in the conference), is more of a distributor and less of a scorer, racking up a career-high nine assists in last Sunday’s win over Rutgers. The three veterans and their fellow attackers will try to break down a Maryland defense that is 10th-best in the country in goals allowed per game despite facing one of the toughest schedules in the country.
Defensively, Northwestern’s young group begins and ends with goalkeeper Julie Krupnick. The redshirt freshman has the second-lowest goals against average and second highest-save percentage in the Big Ten, and she ranks in the top 20 nationally in each category. Krupnick and her fellow defenders will have plenty on their plate tonight, but they’ll almost certainly key in on Meghan Whittle. The senior attacker’s 61 goals are best in the Big Ten and ninth in the nation, and she’s backed up by an array of talented attackers, who have helped power the Terrpains to nearly 16 goals per game.
Overall, stopping Maryland in this clash of conference unbeatens will be a tough task, especially in a hostile environment. They have completely dominated women’s lacrosse over the past half-decade, including Northwestern. But the Wildcats, featuring a talented, senior-laden lineup, are getting hot at the right time, and the Terrapins are showing minor signs of slippage. The upset, and the Big Ten regular season title by extension, are a distinct possibility.
Game Time, location: 6 p.m. Central, Xfinity Center Pavilion (College Park, Md.)
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