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Lacrosse: Previewing Northwestern’s quarterfinal matchup vs Duke

Just one more win will have the ‘Cats back in the Final Four.

Photo via the Duke Athletics Team Website

After a dominant 19-4 win over Denver last Sunday, No. 2 Northwestern (14-0, 11-0 B1G) will face No. 7 Duke (11-7, 4-6 ACC) in a quarterfinal matchup this Saturday, again hosting at Martin Stadium.

Duke is coming off a narrow escape, beating Maryland 13-12 in their second-round matchup this past weekend. While Maryland is an opponent this Northwestern team knows well, beating them three times this season (including once in the Big Ten Championship), Northwestern has yet to face Duke or any non-conference opponents save for Denver so far this season.

The Blue Devils are one of five ACC teams in the NCAA Tournament, all of which still remain here in the quarterfinals (North Carolina, Syracuse, Boston College and Notre Dame are the other four). The ‘Cats beat Duke last season 24-20 in Durham, but since then the Blue Devils have added a talented weapon in Gabby Rosenzweig, a Graduate transfer from the University of Pennsylvania. She has 25 goals on the season, good for third on the team behind Graduate student Catherine Cordrey and her 27, as well as Senior Katie Cronin, who leads Duke with 30 goals total.

Another player to watch is Maddie Jenner — a Junior who has a staggering 180 draw controls on the season. Following their win last week, Northwestern head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said that knows what to expect with Jenner, having coached her in 2019.

“I had her on my U-19 team, so I’m very familiar with her,” she said. “I know a lot of their weapons. We’ll be very excited to host them, and to have a chance to play against a really strong opponent.”

Jenner should make for an exciting matchup against Northwestern’s Jill Girardi, who had a strong showing last week against Denver with 12 draw controls, five caused turnovers and three ground balls.

Northwestern still leads the nation in total offense, averaging 20.50 goals per game, while Duke ranks 26th in this category, scoring 14 goals per game.

Five ‘Cats were tabbed in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association’s (IWLCA) all-region nominees, with Izzy Scane, Lauren Gilbert, Ally Palermo and Lindsey McKone receiving first-team honors, while Sammy Mueller also was selected to the second-team.

Unsurprisingly, with Scane’s eight-goal effort against the Pioneers, she was named the IWLCA’s National Player of the Week.

Fans can likely expect another dominant effort from the ‘Cats’ superstar in a well-fought matchup. Scane is inching closer to a 100-goal season, as she already sits at an impressive mark of 89, breaking the Northwestern single-season scoring title of 86 that was set by Shannon Smith in 2011. Courtney Murphy of Stony Brook currently holds the NCAA single-season goals record at 100, set in 2016 over 21 games. Even more impressively, Scane has managed to reach 89 goals in only 14 games, due to the conference-only regular season.

As per Illinois state guidelines, Martin Field will now be able to hold additional capacity for spectators, including students, for the first time this year. While previously family and friends of players were allowed to request tickets, 100 tickets were made available for general admission for the quarterfinals.

Should Northwestern emerge victorious over Duke this Saturday, they will earn a trip to the Final Four next week in Towson, Maryland, giving them consecutive semifinal appearances in the NCAA Lacrosse Championships, as they were eliminated in the 2019 Final Four by the eventual champions in the Maryland Terrapins.