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Big Ten Tournament 2017 preview: Maryland women’s lacrosse takes on Northwestern in title game

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The Terps look for their second win over the Wildcats in 10 days.

NCAA Lacrosse: Women's Semifinal - Syracuse Orange vs. Maryland Terrapins Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After a 19-16 victory over Johns Hopkins, Maryland women’s lacrosse goes for its second straight Big Ten championship Sunday against Northwestern. Last year, when these two teams played in the Big Ten championship, the Terps defeated the Wildcats 12-9 in Evanston. In the past three years, Maryland is 4-0 against Northwestern, winning by an average of nine goals a game.

The game will take place noon at Maryland Stadium, and will be broadcast on BTN.

Last Meeting

These two teams are familiar with each other, having just played each other last week. In that matchup, Maryland went on the road to beat Northwestern 18-9 to win the Big Ten regular season title.

Caroline Steele was Maryland’s spark, scoring six goals against the Wildcats. Caroline Wannen and Taylor Hensh were also strong that game, each scoring four goals, as only five Terps total scored. Kali Hartshorn was held scoreless, and Megan Whittle only scored twice on three shots, so Northwestern still hasn’t seen Maryland at its best.

In goal, Megan Taylor stopped half the shots she faced in one of her best performances of late. On Sunday, she will need to be on the top of her game again after struggling at times against Johns Hopkins.

Players to Watch

Christina Esposito, 5’3, attack, No. 3. Esposito will enter Sunday’s match with a team high 43 goals and 54 points. When she played Maryland last time, the Terps held her for one goal and one assist, however she is coming off a hat trick against Penn State in the semifinals.

Danita Stroup, 5’6, attack, No. 8. Stroup is a pure goal scorer, getting 32 of her 33 points off goals alone. While she only scored once against Penn State, she did collect a hat trick against Maryland last time, scoring three goals on three shots.

Strengths

Draw Controls. At just over 14 controls per game, Northwestern is in the top 30 in the nation in this category. Against Penn State, the Wildcats dominated the circle, winning the draws 18-7. This is an area of the game that could very easily decide the game as it did in both semifinals.

Scoring Defense. Despite allowing 18 against Maryland, Northwestern only lets up 10.5 goals per game on the year. In the semifinals, the Wildcats held a top-20 scoring team in Penn State to 11 goals, so they are capable of stopping high-powered offenses.

Weakness

Scoring Offense. Although it has a strong defense, Northwestern’s offense isn’t too explosive. The Wildcats only average 10.7 goals a game, and they only have three players who’ve scored at least 20 goals this year.

Three Things to Watch

  1. Can Maryland’s defense bounce back? Johns Hopkins’ 16 goals in the semifinal was the most Maryland has allowed all season. Now that the Terps are playing a more explosive offense in the championship, the defense needs to bounce back with a strong game to survive.
  2. Do Jen Giles and Meghan Doherty play? Giles (lower body injury) and Doherty (no announcement made) combined to start 32 of Maryland’s 34 games, but both missed the semifinal. As a result, Maryland’s defense struggled to replace as both players are crucial on the back end of the field. Adding one or both on Sunday would be a huge boost for the Terps.
  3. Will Maryland continue its Big Ten dominance? Since joining the Big Ten, Maryland has an 18-1 record in the conference, with its only loss coming against Ohio State. A win Sunday would mark two straight years and 15 games since the Terps lost in their first ever Big Ten championship to the Buckeyes.