Lacrosse: Perfect no more, Cats prepare for Fighting Irish

Rohan Nadkarni

After a tough weekend loss to a conference opponent, No. 1 Northwestern (14-1) will play its first game of the season without a spotless record Wednesday. But the competition won’t get any easier with No. 6 Notre Dame (12-2) visiting Lakeside Field.

The Fighting Irish come to Evanston with an impressive 5-1 record on the road, which jumps to 7-1 when including neutral site contests. Notre Dame also enters as the hotter team, with four straight victories under its belt.

In their last game out, the Fighting Irish defeated then-No. 15 Georgetown in double overtime. The team was led by goalie Ellie Hilling, who made a remarkable 16 saves and held the Hoyas to only 6 goals.

On offense, Notre Dame is led by the three-headed monster of Maggie Tamasitis, Jaimie Morrision and Lindsay Powell. The three standouts lead the team in points.

Tamasitis has 69 points, 50 of which have come on assists. Powell leads the team in goals wih 38, while Morrison is not far behind with 32.

The Cats enter the game fresh off their first loss, a contest where Florida made the NU offense disappear for 20 minutes in each half. Before the tilt against the Gators, the Cats played two tight matches against North Carolina and Johns Hopkins, both of which could have easily been losses.

For NU, which has a 7-1 record at home, the key will be consistency. Last week, coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said the team did not play with enough adrenaline throughout games, instead picking up the play when down a few goals.

Examples of that problem include earlier matchups with then-No. 9 Syracuse and then-No. 14 Ohio State, games in which the Cats had to mount furious comebacks in order to win.

Falling behind early may no longer be an option for NU, which has fallen out of the top seven nationally in scoring offense, and also slipped from first to third in scoring defense.

Part of the problem on offense has been the slight drop in play from senior Shannon Smith. Smith, who ran away with the Tewaaraton Award last season, is still closing in on the school’s all-time scoring record, but not at the clip expected going into the season.

After leading the nation in points per game last year and scoring 3.74 goals a game, Smith is ranked 20th in points per game this year, and her scoring average has dropped to 3.33.

What the Cats have in their favor is a dominance over the Fighting Irish historically, winning 11 straight games since NU’s last loss in April of 2003. In the team’s last meeting, the Cats put away Notre Dame 14-11 in the 2011 season opener.

After Wednesday’s game, NU will conclude its regular season Saturday against No. 9 Virginia.