As the one seed, top-ranked Northwestern (18-1, 6-0 B1G) drew the No. 8 seed Loyola Maryland Greyhounds (19-2, 9-0 Patriot) for the NCAA Quarterfinals. Slated for 6:30 CT at Martin Stadium, there will be a dogfight (no pun intended) between these teams to advance to the Final Four.
Unlike in years past, the ‘Cats will not face a familiar opponent, or even a team from a familiar conference (the ACC or B1G) en route to the Final Four. The Greyhounds are considered a ‘mid-major’ in the lacrosse world, coming out of the Patriot League where only two teams were granted berths into the Big Dance. However, they should not be overlooked and here’s why:
The Greyhounds advanced to the quarterfinals via a nail-biter over Stony Brook, a physical and gritty opponent whom Northwestern has seen before. While the program has not made it to the NCAA Final Four since 2003, it is making back-to-back quarterfinals appearances, with last year being the first time since 2015, and has a lot of experience in the tournament under their belt. However, they seem to get dealt a tough hand in their matchups in the postseason, and this Northwestern team is no different. They lost to NCAA runner-up Boston College last season in the quarterfinals and powerhouse Syracuse in the second round in 2021 and quarterfinals in 2015.
En route to the NCAA tournament, the Patriot League champion Greyhounds are riding a 14-game winning streak, with their last loss coming to Syracuse 9-7, who was ranked No. 2 at the time. Given that the Orange boast the second-best scoring offense (cough, cough - behind the ‘Cats), this low-scoring affair is a testament to Loyola’s staunch defense, which I will touch on next.
(For context, Syracuse put up 25 goals to Johns Hopkins’ eight in the second round, the most of any team in the second round: every other matchup had a goal differential of four or less.)
That being said, Loyola currently holds the Division I’s second-best scoring defense, holding their opponents to 6.67 goals per game. The defense is led by graduate students Katie Detweiler and Jillian Wilson — both of whom were drafted to the Athletes Unlimited lacrosse league earlier this month. Wilson is a dominant force on all ends the field with 193 draw controls, 19 caused turnovers and a team-leading 60 goals. Detweiler is more of a traditional midfield-defender with 17 caused turnovers and 78 draw controls.
For the ‘Cats to take down the Greyhounds, it will be crucial to lock down Wilson as she leads the team in nearly every statistic, offensive and defensive. As seen in the matchup against Michigan, teams know that Northwestern has attacking threats across the board — midfielder-turned-defender Carleigh Mahoney ultimately sealed the victory with her goal, and Jane Hansen cause five crucial turnovers down the stretch.
Draw Control Dominance
As mentioned earlier, Wilson is absolutely dominant in the circle. This is a key to the teams’ victories, as she averages 9.19 draw controls per game to clock in at fourth in the nation, and the Greyhounds rank first overall in the country in draw control percentage at 69.8%.
Northwestern has struggled at times on the draw circle, namely in the second quarter in the second round matchup against Michigan and regular-season finale against Maryland.
The draw circle system of Samantha Smith, Samantha White and Madison Taylor has tallied over 217 draw controls this season, but Serafina DeMunno has also had success. At times when the regular takers are struggling, head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller has opted to insert DeMunno into the game, so I would be interested to see if that may be the case to vary it up against the Greyhounds.
These teams have only met twice, once in 1985 and once in 1986 — with the ‘Cats winning in ‘86 and losing in ‘85. With a trip to what could be Northwestern’s fourth-straight Final Four appearance on the line, this should be a great matchup between some of the top offensive units and defensive units in the nation. It will be televised on ESPNU at 6:30 CT on Thursday.