No. 4 overall seed Northwestern defeated Notre Dame in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, scoring the first eight goals of the game to get out to an ultimately unassailable lead.
Though it looked like a blowout after NU’s impressive opening salvo, the Fighting Irish made it into a fight down the stretch, forcing the ‘Cats to make some big plays in order to hold on. Lasota led Northwestern with five goals and an assist. Shane wasn’t far behind, finishing with four goals and an assist.
Northwestern’s speed and defensive effort gave them a number of offensive opportunities in the first part of the game. Emily Stein scored off an early free position to put the Wildcats up 1-0 within the first minute of the game, and behind two goals each from freshman Izzy Scane and senior Selena Lasota along with one from Lindsey McKone, the Wildcats were up 6-0 less than 10 minutes into the half.
Even with yellow cards given to both Lasota and Scane in the first half, the Fighting Irish weren’t able to capitalize offensively. Notre Dame had only recorded 13 shots by halftime compared to Northwestern’s 21. Many of the attempts to transition to offense from the visitors were unsuccessful due to dropped passes, on which the Wildcats were quick to capitalize. By the end of the half, the Wildcats had already tallied a whopping 19 ground balls.
NU’s defense did a good job containing Notre Dame sophomore attacker Maddie Howe in the first half, who scored six goals in the Fighting Irish’s win over Stanford to open up the NCAA Tournament. Their tight face guarding of Howe forced other players to contribute offensively, and it took until there were less than ten minutes left in the first half for Samantha Lynch to respond and put something on the board for ND.
The one place that Notre Dame kept up with Northwestern throughout the first half was the draw circle. Coming into the NCAA Tournament, Notre Dame ranked second in the country in draw controls, and this strength helped them get possession throughout the game. At the end of the first half, Notre Dame led with six draw controls to Northwestern’s five.
Halftime from Evanston:#B1GCats 8 - ND 2— Northwestern Lax (@NULax) May 12, 2019
Selena Lasota: 2️⃣ goals
Izzy Scane: 2️⃣ goals
Lindsey McKones: 2️⃣ goals
Mallory Weisse: 5️⃣ saves
The second half started out much more competitive than the first. Selena Lasota scored again to secure her hat trick, but Notre Dame came back with four straight goals in the following five minutes. Maddie Howe, Andie Aldave and Nikki Ortega each contributed their first goals of the game, and Lynch her second. This offensive surge from the Irish cut Northwestern’s lead to just three at 9-6.
Luckily for the ‘Cats, Lasota came back with a score to end the ND scoring run. Shane immediately snagged a hat trick of her own before Lasota scored again to put the Wildcats back up by five.
A fourth yellow card on Northwestern with 8:28 left in the half gave Notre Dame a man-up situation that they were finally able to capitalize on. Freshman Madison Mote scored her first of the game for the Fighting Irish to make it 12-8. Howe then bookended Mote’s goal to gain a hat trick, making the Wildcat faithful start to sweat.
Samantha Lynch followed with her own hat trick after another goal from Scane to cut the Wildcats’ lead back to three. As the clock ran down, Notre Dame’s defense hustled to double, but despite their desperation, the Fighting Irish were ultimately unable to score again, leaving the final score at 13-10.
Mallory Weisse led an impressive defensive effort, continuing her streak of double-digit saves with ten stops. Though the Wildcats allowed ND to control the draw circle, the defenders around the senior goalkeeper forced the Irish into 16 turnovers and allowed only 20 of their 38 shots to get on frame.
By contrast, 28 of the 35 shots the hosts got off were on target, though sophomore goalkeeper Bridget Deehan did an impressive job after replacing starter Samantha Giacolon early in the game, making 11 saves to keep NU from running away with it.
Northwestern will host fifth-seeded Syracuse this weekend in the NCAA Quarterfinals.