With a trip to the Final Four on the line, No. 4 seed Northwestern will host No. 5 seed Syracuse in Martin Stadium this Saturday at 1 p.m. CST.
The Orange gave the Wildcats their first loss of the regular season in overtime this February. However, historically, Northwestern is 5-0 against Syracuse at home, and 8-3 overall.
Junior attacker Emily Hawryschuk scored the game winner for Syracuse in the earlier matchup between the two teams, and she also contributed five goals in their win over Georgetown in the first round of the tournament. Hawryschuk leads the Orange with 70 goals in the 2019 season (ninth highest in the country). For comparison, star senior attacker Selena Lasota has tallied 79 goals for the Wildcats this season, good for sixth nationally.
Northwestern’s defense will need to focus on containing Hawryschuk. In their last two games, against Maryland and Notre Dame, the Wildcats have face guarded star players, and it seems likely they will attempt to do so once more.
Against Notre Dame, senior goalie Mallory Weisse recorded 10 saves, her highest in the postseason since 2016, to continue a seven game double-digit saves streak. With her in the net, Northwestern’s defense will hopefully have another layer to help protect against the dynamic offense of the Orange.
Northwestern’s strong presence on the draw circle should help them keep the ball away from that offense. Draw specialist Brennan Dwyer has 162 draw controls this season, and both Dwyer and Northwestern as a team rank fifth in the country for draw controls per game. Though she lost the majority of draw controls against the Fighting Irish, Dwyer had led the Wildcats to an advantage in the category in the eleven previous contests.
Syracuse (16-4) and Northwestern (15-4) have very similar records, so this matchup could certainly go either way. Northwestern was the only team to beat Maryland this season, and Syracuse was one of the only other teams to come close, ultimately losing by one in overtime.
Prior to this season, Syracuse had not seen much recent success in the NCAA Tournament. The win against Georgetown was Syracuse’s first postseason win in three years. Nonetheless, before that, the program reached the final four five straight times.
For the Wildcats, on the other hand, this is the second straight year of them advancing to the quarterfinals, though they are looking for their first trip to the semifinals since 2014. Of course, under Kelly Amonte Hiller, Northwestern has known considerably greater past success than Syracuse, and they will look to take another step towards their eighth national championship by taking down the Orange.
If the Wildcats come out on top, they will face the winner of Maryland and Denver on Friday, May 24 at Johns Hopkins in the national semifinals. The championship game will be played that Sunday at 11 a.m. CST.