Lacrosse: After scare at Syracuse, No. 1 Northwestern returns for home opener against Oregon

Rohan Nadkarni

For No. 1 Northwestern, there’s no place like home.

The Wildcats (3-0) will finally play in Evanston on Saturday, as Oregon (2-2) travels to Lakeside Field for NU’s home opener. The Ducks will be the first unranked opponent the Cats have faced all season.

Oregon enters the game in the midst of an inconsistent early season, as the team has alternated wins and losses in its first four games.

The Ducks played two games in a three-day span to start their season, taking on Temple and La Salle in Philadelphia. Oregon dropped the first contest to the Owls 14-12, but rebounded against the Explorers with a 10-6 victory.

Against La Salle, senior attacker Kristina Barrett was a major force, scoring four goals for the Ducks.

In their next two games, Oregon went on the road once more to take on Towson before returning home for a battle with California. The game against the Tigers proved to be the Ducks’ worst performance of the season, as they dropped a lopsided match, 16-5. However, in their home opener, Oregon responded to the loss with a 10-9 win over the Bears.

Against Cal, the Ducks’ slim victory was aided by the stellar play of their goalkeeper, sophomore Caroline Federighi, who recorded 12 saves en route to the win.

Oregon enters the game against the Cats averaging just more than nine goals per game, including its five-goal disappointment against Towson. In addition to Barrett, the Ducks have potent offensive stars in Shannon Propst and Nikki Puszcz, who have 10 and 9 points on the season respectively.

For the Cats, the challenge will be to come out at the start of the match with the right energy. Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said she was not pleased with NU’s performance in an 11-9 overtime win against No. 9 Syracuse on Wednesday, a game in which the Cats trailed 6-2 at one point in the first half.

“We need to get better,” Amonte Hiller said after the game against the Orange. “We need to get better all over the field. The main thing is we need to be ready from the first whistle to compete and be focused.”

Even senior attacker Shannon Smith, who scored five goals in NU’s last game, said the overall performance was flat.

“My takeaway is that we always need to be ready from the start,” Smith said.

Despite the uneven performance against Syracuse, the Cats remained undefeated on the season. In its first three games, all on the road, NU defeated all top-10 opponents and scored double-digit goals in each game. The Cats have outscored their opponents 42-20 and have not allowed more than nine goals in any game.

For NU, the usual suspects have led the charge. Smith and junior midfielder Erin Fitzgerald combined for 21 goals and 25 points in the season’s first three games, accounting for half of the team’s goals.

The Cats are dominating teams on the stat sheet across the board, especially in the second half of each game. NU holds a 27-7 goals advantage over teams after halftime but are only outscoring teams 15-13 in the first half.

The same can be said about shots. Although the Cats have outshot their opponents 39-31 in the first 30 minutes of every match, that advantage increases to 47-24 after the first period.

Overall, this will be the second all-time meeting between NU and Oregon. In the first matchup between the two teams, none of the current players were involved. That game was 21-2 blowout in favor of NU, played in Evanston in 2005.

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