More parades on the way?
After Northwestern lacrosse’s dismantling of Boston College 18-6 in the NCAA National Championship to capture the program’s eighth title, it got us thinking, which NU team is next to hoist a national championship? While no program is as dominant as the powerhouse Kelly Amonte Hiller has built, there are plenty of teams that are in the hunt to capture the gold. Here are the teams most likely to be celebrating a title for the ‘Cats next.
Tracy Fuchs’ squad has been to the National Championship in back-to-back seasons, and hoisted the trophy in 2021, so they would have to be the odds-on favorite to be the first ‘Cats team to lift a championship again. Right? Northwestern will have an incredibly experienced team heading into the 2023 season, and with championship experience comes championship expectations. Star forward Bente Baekers still has a sixth year of eligibility since she missed the 2018 season with an injury, so if the four-time All-American decides to return to Evanston for one last run, the Wildcats will automatically be a heavy favorite to win the NCAA Tournament once again.
As if a sixth year of Baekers was not enough, Peyton Halsey and Alia Marshall both have one year of eligibility left due to the NCAA’s COVID policy. Plus, goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz will be a senior this upcoming season. Skubisz gave up only 31 goals during the 2022 season, a little over one per game. If Fuchs is able to get everyone to return for one last season, it will be hard to stop the ‘Cats this fall.
Another team that surprised people in 2022 was women’s soccer. Michael Moynihan’s team was picked to finish 12th in the Big Ten ended up making it all the way to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. The ‘Cats return captain Danika Austin, star forward Aurea del Carmen and Lily Gilbertson in their fifth years for NU. Midfielders Ella Hase and Josie Aulicino now enter their senior season, and 2022 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Caterina Regazzoni is now one year stronger and has a season of experience under her belt.
The Wildcats are built to win now, and no one will be under estimating them this year; however, in order for NU to succeed, it will need to figure out its back end. Graduate transfer Mia Raben is out of eligibility, so sophomore Riley Fitzpatrick is expected to take over in net for the Wildcats. Fitzpatrick did play in 11 games this past season, giving up four goals on 28 shots. With the veteran presence on this squad, expect Northwestern to be in the hunt come November and the NCAA Tournament.
Let’s get crazy, shall we? After a historic year in 2022, Northwestern has the talent to make another run into the madness known as March. First Team All-Big Ten honoree Boo Buie is back for his fifth season, Brooks Barnhizer appears to be heading for stardom, Matt Nicholson has developed into a quality Big Ten center and Chris Lowery is still on the sidelines installing a stifling defense.
While losing Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Chase Audige hurts, NU brought in a phenomenal class from the transfer portal. Graduate transfer Ryan Langborg is a pure shooter from anywhere on the court and gives Northwestern the offensive firepower it lacked in 2022, Justin Mullins has all the traits to be a tremendous 3&D player if developed correctly — which NU showed it could do with Audige — and Blake Preston will be a big body off the bench, perfect for the physical nature of Big Ten basketball. If the Wildcats stay healthy, they have the talent to be a top team in the conference and would easily secure a bid to the big dance. Once March hits, it is pure chaos. This year we saw two mid-majors and a team that has never made the Final Four make up 75% of the last four standing, so anything is possible.