The start of the Northwestern lacrosse season is upon us, as the reigning national champions kicked off their season Ryan Fieldhouse on Saturday. With the year just getting underway, we took the time to rank some of the Lake Show’s most anticipated matchups of the regular season.
5. at No. 9 Maryland on Apr. 6
Northwestern-Maryland has been a major Big Ten rivalry for the past few seasons. Last year, the Wildcats took down the Terrapins twice — the first time at home to claim the Big Ten regular season title, and the second time in Columbus to win the Big Ten tournament. This season, NU will face Maryland on the road in one of its final conference games, which could have major implications for determining the regular-season crown. It’s also worth noting that the Terrapins gained 2023 Big Ten Defender of the Year Meghan Ball from Rutgers, who will attempt to stop Northwestern’s ballistic offense while wearing a different kind of red uniform this season.
Yes, Maryland hasn’t been the dynasty that it used to be in lacrosse. But anything can happen in a rivalry game, especially when playing in front of fans of the most decorated program in women’s lacrosse.
4. at No. 3 North Carolina on Mar. 25
If this list was written last week, this matchup would have been ranked much higher. However, Inside Lacrosse broke the news on Tuesday that third-team IWCLA All-American defender Brooklyn Walker-Welch and attackers Marissa White and Chloe Humphrey would sit out of the 2024 season due to injuries — which weakens North Carolina significantly. Both Walker-Welch and White were ranked in Inside Lacrosse’s women’s top 50 players list, while Humphrey was considered the top-ranked freshman coming into this season.
However, whenever the Wildcats play the Tar Heels in a stick sport, something is bound to happen. UNC is still a well-rounded team that is much more than the three players that it lost, and will have the advantage of a home crowd when Northwestern plays it on the road for the first time in two years. It will be especially interesting to see how Lindsey Frank and Alia Marshall perform during this game, considering that the last time they were in Chapel Hill, they lost to UNC’s field hockey team in a penalty shootout in the national championship game.
3. vs. No. 5 Syracuse on Feb. 10
Most of Northwestern’s games this season will be “revenge matchups” for the opposing team, but not the Syracuse game. The Oranges were the only team that NU couldn’t defeat in an otherwise perfect 2023 season — and the Wildcats already avenged that with an 18-15 victory on Saturday.
Syracuse loses Tewaaraton finalist Meaghan Tyrell, who led the team in goals last year. However, it still brings a stacked roster that includes the likes of First-Team All-American Emma Ward, Emma Tyrell (who only scored three fewer goals than her sister last season), and Delaney Swietzer — who is widely considered to be the best goalkeeper in the nation. Let’s remember that the Orange only lost by one goal in the 2023 national semifinal and were the No. 1 team in the country for a good portion of last season, so expect them to challenge the Wildcats in a similar way that they did last year.
2. vs. No. 4 Denver on Mar. 8
A Final Four rematch on Friday night at Ryan Fieldhouse — how much better can it get? The timing and atmosphere of this game alone have it ranked high on our list, but a top-notch opponent like Denver just makes things even better.
Northwestern dismantled Denver’s defense in the national semifinal, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Pioneers held all of their other opponents to single digits last season. They are arguably the top defense in the nation and return two of their best players, Sam Thacker and Trinity McPherson, who are both coming back to use their COVID year. Denver (like many other teams) will be out for revenge after last year, and the Wildcats’ first regular-season game against it since 2009 will be one for the ages.
1. at No. 2 Boston College on Feb. 29
Even though Northwestern beat Boston College by 12 goals in the national championship last season, the Eagles are by no means a bad team and will want payback on their home turf. They lost 2023 Tewaaraton finalist Jenn Medjid, but still return four of their top five leading scorers from last season, First-Team All-American defender Sydney Scales and 2023 ACC Freshman of the Year goalkeeper Shea Dolce. The Eagles also gain a big weapon in Emma Lopinto, a transfer from Florida and a Second-Team All-American who ranked 14th in the NCAA for goals scored last season.
Last season’s national championship game was one of the worst performances for an otherwise very strong Boston College team, and the Wildcats should expect a much more difficult challenge when they travel to Chestnut Hill for the rematch.