Fifth-ranked Northwestern women’s lacrosse (12-4, 5-1) will begin Big Ten Tournament play tonight with their semifinal matchup against the #7 Wolverines (15-2, 4-2).
The two teams’ clash at Homewood Field in Baltimore, Maryland, home of the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays, will begin immediately after the first semifinal between top-ranked Maryland and Penn State, slated for 4:30 pm CST. The seven team Big Ten opts to hold a four-team tournament for lacrosse, which ensures that every game will be played on BTN.
Michigan faced the Wildcats almost exactly three weeks ago in Evanston, with Northwestern coming out on top 14-11. Since, NU has brought their winning streak to three games with wins over then fourth-ranked Notre Dame and Ohio State. The Wolverines have faced just Detroit Mercy in that span, over whom they cruised to an easy win.
The Michigan defense has been their most impressive feature this season. Only the Wildcats and the aforementioned Terrapins have scored more than 11 goals against them, with each squad still tallying just 14 goals, below their average season outputs.
Mira Shane has been phenomenal in the cage, allowing just 114 goals in 17 games and putting up a .502 save percentage. Senior defender Madison Richardson, who was named to the All-Big Ten team, was primarily tasked with shadowing Selena Lasota last time and was impressive in only allowing four goals on nine shots to one of the most accomplished scorers in the country,
Offensively, Michigan has a variety of threats. Maggie Kane and Caitlin Muir, both of whom joined Richardson as All-Big Ten honorees this week, put up hat tricks against the Wildcats the first time out. But the leading goalscorer is Adriana Pendino, who does much of her work from the free position arc. There will be no single player for Northwestern’s defense to key on.
The Wildcats enter postseason play having won eight of their last nine, with their only loss in that span a 17-13 defeat against the Terrapins (the only still-undefeated team in the country) who they were even with before the game moved indoors with 12:30 to play. Suffice it to say that they are red hot.
Selena Lasota, one of seven unanimous All-Big Ten honorees, leads the way offensively with 65 goals and 15 assists on the season. She sits at fourth in the country with 4.33 goals per game, heading Northwestern’s second-ranked scoring offense. Seven-time Big Ten freshman of the week (and fellow All-Big Ten honoree) Izzy Scane is second with 45 goals. Lauren Gilbert is third on the team with 41, and Lindsey McKone rounds out the four-pronged attack with 32 goals and a team-leading 19 assists.
Brennan Dwyer and Ally Palermo received all-conference recognition on the defensive side. Palermo keys the Wildcat transition group and Dwyer, the draw control specialist, has come on strong down the stretch to lead Northwestern to an advantage in the circle during each of their last nine contests. Senior goalkeeper Mallory Weisse has started just the last four games, but has put up double-digit saves in each.
If Northwestern wins, they would earn the chance to advance to the Big Ten Championship (probably against Maryland) on Sunday at 11 am CST.
The win over Michigan would all but secure host status for their first round NCAA Tournament game, but an upset victory over Maryland would almost certainly vault them over Syracuse into the fourth overall seed. They may have secured a berth in the Tournament, but there is plenty for the Wildcats to play for this weekend.