Northwestern (14-4, 5-1 B1G) upset No. 1 Maryland (18-1, 6-0) 16-11 in the Big Ten Championship, marking the first time the Wildcats have beat the Terrapins since 2012.
Head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller led NU to their first B1G title against her alma mater, demonstrating that this Northwestern team might have the potential to mirror the postseason success that coincided with their last victory over the Terps in 2012.
Izzy Scane and Selena Lasota led the way with four goals, with Lindsey McKone and Lauren Gilbert each adding a hat trick. The former tacked on three assists. Senior goalkeeper Mallory Weisse put up ten saves, Brennan Dwyer dominated in the draw circle en route to a 19-10 advantage in controls, and the Wildcats never trailed Maryland in securing almost certainly the most impressive win of the season by any team.
Scane came out with a bang, attacking from up top to sink two quick goals despite suffering an ankle injury during the Wildcats’ semifinal win against Michigan. Defensively, Northwestern looked solid, forcing a shot clock violation along with a few dropped balls from Maryland.
Weisse recorded two saves early in the game, while Maryland keeper Megan Taylor did not get a save until almost 12 minutes into the half. Taylor is arguably the backbone of the Maryland defense, leading the country with a .580 save percentage.
Graduate student Erica Evans — who led the Terrapins with five goals during their win over Penn State — took advantage of a yellow card for Lasota, Northwestern’s leading attacker, to cut their lead to 4-2. Another Northwestern yellow card gave Maryland’s offense another opportunity to score, making them two for two in capitalizing on the man-up situation.
Despite this, Northwestern held their lead in part because of their performance on the draw. Behind Dwyer, Northwestern dominated on the circle. With just under eight minutes left in the first half, the Wildcats were 9-11.
Scane, continuing a dominant freshman campaign, completed her hat trick to put Northwestern up 7-4, and less than two minutes later, Lasota finally tallied her first score of the game to extend that lead once again.
Those goals kicked off a 5-0 scoring run that began with 8:44 to play in the first half and put Northwestern up 10-4 at the break. Gilbert, the sophomore and third-leading scorer for the Wildcats, led the way with her first two goals of the game.
This season, the Terrapins have only gone into two games being down at halftime (once against Syracuse and once against Georgetown), and this six-goal deficit was the largest they have faced at the half since 2007.
The second frame began with a goal from Maryland junior Hannah Warther, the Terps’ first goal in over 11 minutes. Lasota responded with two scores of her own, her box lacrosse history put on display through her quick stick work and ability to handle the ball.
Northwestern’s decision to face guard both senior Jen Giles and Evans forced other players to step up offensively, and though some did at times, the Wildcat defense was ultimately overwhelming.
Even as Taylor hit her milestone 700th career save, McKone scored two goals within two minutes, her second and third of the game, to put Northwestern up by seven about halfway through the second half. With just under 11 minutes left in the game, she also recorded her third assist, sending a perfect feed to a wide open Lasota in the eight meter arc.
Scane continued to stand out with arguably the play of the game: a picture-perfect backcheck on Evans that would have been impressive on its own, but was even more noteworthy considering she was running on a recent ankle injury.
With a little over five minutes left, Lasota’s second yellow card put her out for the remainder of the game. Maryland scored during this man-up offense, and then again with even numbers to cut Northwestern’s lead to four. However, as the clock ran down, Maryland was eventually forced to pull their goalie to give them an extra man on defense, allowing Gilbert to ultimately complete her hat trick.
Northwestern’s dominant defending and Weisse’s ten saves contributed to Maryland’s 11-32 shooting performance. That marked an unusually low percentage for the Terrapins, who averaged almost 50 percent this regular season.
Meanwhile, offensively, the Wildcats impressed as well: Maryland gave up just 7.28 goals per game before Northwestern’s onslaught. Their mastery over all facets allowed them to reach a dominance that no team has exerted over the Terps in a long time.
The level of play Northwestern has exhibited in the past few weeks is exactly what a team wants to see in May. The combination of a versatile offense and a well fortified defense makes the Wildcats a force to be reckoned with as they try to extend their run of success in next weekend’s NCAA Tournament.