No. 2-ranked Maryland women’s lacrosse (14-0, 4-0 Big Ten) will be on the road to face No. 5 Northwestern (9-3, 3-0) in Evanston, Illinois, on Thursday night.
The Terrapins are fresh off of a 14-3 victory against then-No. 7 Michigan last Saturday, one of their most complete performances of the year. Maryland dominated in almost all categories and cruised to victory against another top-10 opponent.
But Northwestern will be a tall task, as it boasts the highest scoring offense in the country at 19 goals per game. The Wildcats are also very dangerous from the eight-meter, scoring on 44 of their 83 free-position chances.
Though they come in with a 9-3 record, the Wildcats are battle-tested. The team’s three losses have come against No. 1 Boston College, No. 3 North Carolina and No. 7 Syracuse, while putting together ranked wins against No. 5 Penn, No. 16 Duke and No. 17 Johns Hopkins.
In matchups against ranked teams, Northwestern has combined to score and allow an average of 34 goals per game, so the propensity for a high-scoring game in this matchup is eminent. The Terrapins average 15.9 goals per game and have the power to score at will, so whichever team puts together the best defensive performance will likely come out on top.
The opening draw between Maryland and Northwestern is set for 8 p.m. ET, and will be broadcasted live on the Big Ten Network.
No. 5 Northwestern Wildcats (9-3, 3-0)
2018 record: 15-6, 5-1, NCAA Quarterfinals
Head coach Kelly Amonte-Hiller is in her 18th season leading the charge for the Wildcats. She has a career record of 289-76, including a 42-8 record in the NCAA Tournament. Under her direction, the Wildcats have won seven NCAA Championships, all of which came in an eight-year span from 2004-12.
Amonte-Hiller is a Maryland alumna who played under Cindy Timchal from 1993-96; she and Cathy Reese played two seasons together. She was a four-time All-American as a Terp, and left the program as its all-time leader in goals (187), assists (132) and points (319).
Players to know
Senior attacker Selena Lasota (No. 2) is one of the nation’s toughest scoring threats with 44 goals on the season. She is tied for 14th in the country in goals scored, and her average of four goals per game is tied for sixth nationally. The Wildcats have seven double-digit goal scorers this season, so similar to teams playing Maryland, the ability to confidently man-mark on defense will be huge across the board.
Freshman midfielder Izzy Scane (No. 27) has come in and impacted games all over the field. She has tallied 33 goals and 10 assists so far in 2019, while shooting 73.3 percent. She is also second on the team with 44 draw controls this season, splitting duties with sophomore Brennan Dwyer, who leads the team with 98 controls.
Three things to watch
1. Maryland’s defense is on a huge streak right now. The Terrapin defense has held 11 opponents under 10 goals this season, including reaching that mark their last eight times out. Along with that streak, senior goalkeeper Megan Taylor is on a streak of her own, earning her sixth straight Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Award this week. The back line for Maryland has come into form wonderfully, but the biggest test to its growth will come on Thursday.
“I think the biggest piece is experience,” head coach Cathy Reese said of how the defense has come alive this season. “Last year we had a lot of new faces on our defensive end, and players like Lizzie Colson had come in to last season having started in two games in her career, and now she, as well as Grace Griffin, all have a year under their belt.
“Coming into this season it was just kind of getting used to playing with each others’ strengths and recognizing each others’ weaknesses. These guys have done a good job of adjusting as the season’s gone on, and I think defensively our unit’s gotten stronger as each game’s gone by.”
2. The draw control could be the difference in this matchup. The Terrapins struggled against Virginia at the draw, but bounced back for a 14-5 advantage against Michigan. Northwestern is a team that has controlled just over 50 percent of its draws this season, and the Wildcats’ offense scoring 19 goals per game is a huge byproduct of that.
“We struggled a little bit against Virginia, [but] picked it up last game against Michigan,” junior Kali Hartshorn said about the draw control. “Northwestern is a really tough team, and I know their defense is pretty tough, so hopefully when we get the ball we can definitely convert.”
3. Who will take the latest installment between these two storied programs? The Terrapins and Wildcats became one of the biggest matchups in women’s lacrosse in the last 10 years, even facing off in back-to-back championships in 2010 and 2011, where each team won once. Northwestern last beat Maryland in the 2012 NCAA semifinals, with the Terrapins holding an 8-0 record against the Wildcats since that loss.
“When Maryland went to the Big Ten, this was the first game of the lacrosse season that was televised on Big Ten Network,” Reese said when asked about the importance of this matchup in the history of women’s lacrosse. “Maryland-Northwestern had not only met in the regular season for some years, but then always in the Final Four. ... We beat them in ‘10, they beat us in ‘11 and ‘12, and it was just this back-and-forth kind of thing.
“But both teams are super talented, both teams are having great seasons so far, and it’s always a good matchup as we get to this point of the season, especially in conference play, that you’ve got to be ready for.”