Nearly 280 days after the final horn sounded in Towson, Md. to signal Syracuse’s defeat of Northwestern in the Final Four and the end of the Wildcats’ run for the national title, the No. 6 Wildcats got their chance revenge over the No. 3 Orange in Ryan Fieldhouse on Tuesday.
Understandably for a contest of this history and for teams of this ranking, this game came with a fair share of hype. Boy, did it live up to it. In a match that saw five lead changes, the ‘Cats came out on top 16-15 in sudden-death overtime to hand Syracuse its first loss of the season.
The victory also provided a true statement win for NU, which fell in its opening day matchup to No. 1 Boston College but has now won four straight games against a series of respected opponents, now including the highly-ranked powerhouse from upstate New York.
A trio of graduate students in Lauren Gilbert, Jill Girardi and Brennan Dwyer combined to contribute 14 of Northwestern’s 16 goals. Gilbert led the way with seven goals to tie her career-high for a second-consecutive game after also tallying seven against Notre Dame last Wednesday, while Girardi had five. Dwyer and Junior Erin Coykendall each chipped in two, and Coykendall contributed otherwise with an assist and three forced turnovers.
It was a back-and-forth affair the entire first half, with Northwestern leading 8-5 at the break after a 4-0 run to close the second quarter. Syracuse came out firing in the third quarter on a 5-0 run, forcing the Orange into the driver’s seat at the final regulation break. Amazingly, the ‘Cats, down three with just 3:24 left in the fourth quarter, clawed back to tie the game with 55 seconds to play courtesy of two Gilbert scores with a Girardi goal sandwiched in between.
The finisher came for Northwestern in the form of a Gilbert goal after she won the draw control to start the extra period and wound up drawing a foul to elicit what would become a game-winning free position.
After coming into the year with so much uncertainty following star Izzy Scane’s season-spoiling injury and after falling to the defending national champs at BC to open things up, Northwestern has been on a roll. The ‘Cats will hope to keep their momentum going against yet another top-ten opponent when they take on No. 2 North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Sunday at 11 a.m. CT.