After a dominant regular season, finishing as the Big Ten regular season and tournament champions, Northwestern Women's Lacrosse (13-0, 13-0 B1G) will face the winner of Stanford vs. Denver in the second round of the NCAA Tournament after receiving the No. 2 overall seed and a first-round bye.
The ‘Cats will be hosting the winner at home due to their higher seeding, and will face a tough matchup in either the Stanford Cardinal or Denver Pioneers. While the team has faced plenty of tough opponents in conference play, this will be the first time they face a non-B1G opponent due to the COVID restrictions put in place for regular season play.
Despite the conference-only season, Northwestern has looked the best they have in a long time, highlighted by Tewaaraton finalists Izzy Scane, Lauren Gilbert and Lindsey McKone.
The ‘Cats did face Stanford in last year’s abbreviated season, defeating them 25-18, meanwhile they have not faced Denver since 2009. Four Big Ten teams in total made the tournament, with the three at-large qualifiers being Maryland (who the ‘Cats defeated in the championship matchup) Rutgers and Johns Hopkins.
Also of note, this NCAA Tournament could feature some non-conference rematches from last year’s season before it was cancelled. While the ‘Cats finished 2020 with a 4-3 record, those three losses came from what are now three top-5 seeded teams in this year’s tournament in No. 1 UNC, No. 3 Syracuse and No. 5 Notre Dame. UNC, Northwestern, and Syracuse as the top three overall seeds were all granted first-round byes, as well as hosting status for the first and second rounds of the tournament.
Stanford is undefeated thus far as well, winning the Pac-12 regular season and tournament championship. Denver has only lost one game this season, and won the Big East tournament. Those two teams will face off on Friday in the Evanston ‘pod’ and await the ‘Cats on Sunday, as Northwestern seeks their eighth national championship and first since 2012.