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Lacrosse: ‘Cats outlast Maryland to win Big Ten regular season title

Next up: Big Ten Tournament.

Northwestern Lacrosse/@NULax

On a chilly day at Martin Stadium, No. 2 Northwestern secured the outright Big Ten regular season championship over No. 12 Maryland, 13-6.

There are few rivalries as storied as the ‘Cats against the Terps, but this year Northwestern took the crown. In doing so, they also clinched the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

Izzy Scane struck first, and NU jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

Maryland was able to tie the game at four apiece going into the half in what reflected a defense showcase by both teams.

Maryland’s goalkeeper, Emily Sterling, the 2022 IWLCA Goalie of the Year, was a huge contributor to the low-scoring nature of the game — tallying 13 saves. This is the third time this season the ‘Cats have been held to 13 goals, the other two were against then-No. 1 North Carolina and then-No. 4 Stony Brook. For UMD, this was the lowest showing for its offense all season.

The ‘Cats came out hot in the third quarter, outscoring the Terps 5-1 and 9-2 in the second half. While Maryland’s stifling defense, namely Abby Bosco, held Scane to only one goal and three points. However, Hailey Rhatigan, Erin Coykendall and Madison Taylor led the scoring for NU.

Rhatigan tallied four goals, while Coykendall and Taylor each had hat tricks.

No. 77 moved into tenth in all-time goal scoring in NCAA lacrosse with 273 goals.

But what stood out the most in this regular season finale was the defensive performance from Northwestern. Molly Laliberty had an outstanding day in the net, tallying 8 saves, many in pivotal moments.

Samantha White also added three ground balls and caused four turnovers to keep the Maryland offense at bay. As a team, Northwestern forced 10 turnovers to the Terps’ 6.

Tonight’s win over Maryland was a stark contrast from last season, when the ‘Cats fell to the Terrapins in College Park 15-9, also to end the regular season.

The ‘Cats and the Terps, the first and second-seeded teams in the Big Ten Tournament, will each have a bye week before traveling to Columbus, Ohio for the tournament.

Maryland will take on the seventh-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes, while Northwestern will enjoy a first-round bye into the semifinals on May 4. They’ll take on the winner of Penn State and Michigan, which takes place on April 29.

For now, ‘Cats fans will be eagerly awaiting the latest IWLCA/NCAA women’s lacrosse rankings, as a shakeup in the top five with previously undefeated Syracuse (cough, cough, starting with a one-goal loss with a Rhatigan-less ‘Cats squad) fell to Boston College in the ACC regular-season finale. This would prime Northwestern to perhaps be the top-ranked team in the nation, as they are now on a 15-game win streak heading into the postseason. However, it’s possible

After the conclusion of the Big Ten Tournament, Northwestern will await its NCAA postseason fate, where they are likely to clinch a top-four seed with the success they have had in the conference coupled with its non-conference strength of schedule (#1 in RPI).

For now, though, let’s bask in the ‘Cats’ 2023 Big Ten regular season title, which also marks their second in the last three years.