Northwestern women’s lacrosse officially became the No. 4 seed for the NCAA Tournament Sunday night after a remarkable win over Maryland in the Big Ten championship game made them the automatic Big Ten qualifier.
This marks the Wildcats’ 16th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Northwestern has not won a national title since 2012. But up until yesterday, the Wildcats had also not beaten the Terrapins since 2012 — and they just took care of that.
The win Sunday allowed the Wildcats to jump over Syracuse, now seeded No. 5, to round out the top four seeds. Northwestern will take on the winner of Notre Dame and Stanford at their home field in Evanston on Sunday, May 12.
The ‘Cats have won their past five games, one of which was on the road against the Fighting Irish, who were at the time ranked above the Wildcats. Similar to the upset over Maryland, Northwestern’s offensive depth allowed them to get past a historically solid Notre Dame defense.
On the other hand, the last time Northwestern and Stanford matched up was 2013. From 2003-2013, Northwestern’s record against Stanford was 9-1, but it is hard to know exactly how this matchup would play out so many years later.
Stanford and Notre Dame have no common opponents, but Notre Dame is likely the favorite. Not only were they ranked high throughout the regular season, but the Fighting Irish also come out of a much stronger ACC Conference as compared to Stanford’s Pac-12. The ACC has the most teams in the tournament this year, and it also contains four of the top six seeds.
We will have a fuller preview for this first matchup when we find out Northwestern’s official second-round opponent. But for now, here are three general keys the Wildcats will need in order to come out on top against either Notre Dame or Stanford:
- Dominate on the draw circle
Notre Dame remains second in the country for draw controls, while Stanford is not far behind at seventh. Draw specialist Brennan Dwyer has done a great job for the ‘Cats this season, but she needs to continue to succeed in the biggest games of the year in order to garner a much-needed advantage in terms of time of possession.
- Be versatile on offense
This season, Notre Dame’s defense has held their opponents to just under an average of eight goals per game. Luckily for the ‘Cats, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem as they have a number of strong players who have contributed offensively.
- Hold down the back of the defense
One of the main differences between Northwestern and Notre Dame’s performances in their last matchups was the save percentages. Senior Mallory Weisse recorded 14 saves for the Wildcats when they upset the Fighting Irish, which clearly made a big difference as both teams tallied almost the same exact number of shots (34 vs. 33). Stanford also averaged almost 32 shots per game this past season, so the ‘Cats will definitely need some defensive stops as well if they are to face the Cardinal.