For the first time in a long time, Northwestern’s regular season is coming down to the wire.
The No. 9 Wildcats (10-5, 2-2 Big Ten) face No. 20 Ohio State (11-5, 2-2) at Lakeside Field on Saturday with Big Ten Tournament seeding on the line.
Should NU best the Buckeyes, the Cats are looking at a No. 3 seed at Big Tens, putting them on the favorable side of the tournament bracket, opposite No. 1 Maryland.
Although NU has dominated Ohio State in the two teams’ 13 straight annual matchups, the Buckeyes edged the Cats 11-10 in the regular season last year before NU avenged the loss with a win in the American Lacrosse Conference tournament.
This time around, the Ohio State matchup is NU’s chance to avenge four close losses in 2015 and mentally right themselves before the conference tournament. Senior attack Kara Mupo said two losses in three games took a mental toll on the Cats, who are still struggling to figure out how to play solidly for a full 60 minutes.
Her solution is to refocus on lacrosse fundamentals.
“In all of these games we haven’t come out with a ‘W,’ we’ve played with these teams for the majority of the game,” Mupo said. “It’s just the little plays late in the game that are getting to us, but we just have to figure it out … solid defense, solid offense, execute shots. Plain and simple.”
Easier said than done. After pulling out an intense win at then-No.10 Notre Dame on April 16, a stinging 14-10 loss to then-No.12 Penn State three days later had senior goalkeeper Bridget Bianco and Mupo visibly frustrated. Mupo was assessed a yellow card after a wicked slash with under two minutes left in the contest.
“We played with this great energy against Notre Dame and then we come back and have this huge game on our own field … the energy just didn’t carry over,” Bianco said. “With everything I have been through in my four years here, that becomes upsetting. You start to ask yourself, ‘Why? Could I have done this, could I have done that?’ You start reflecting on yourself.”
Now, there’s only one thing that will affect Bianco’s mentality after she and her nine senior classmates take to Lakeside Field for their last regular-season game of their careers Saturday.
“It’s going to be a mix of emotions,” Bianco said. “I’ll have a good senior day if we beat Ohio State.”
Lasota nominated for 2015 Tewaaraton Award
Freshman attack Selena Lasota was one of three freshman of 25 players named as a nominee for the Tewaaraton Award, lacrosse’s equivalent of the college football’s Heisman Trophy.
Lasota, the phenom who grew up playing box lacrosse in her native British Columbia, leads the Cats with 54 goals (the next highest scorers, Kaleigh Craig and Mupo, have 29 each) and was the only NU player named to the list. Bianco and Mupo were named to the Tewaaraton “watch list” earlier this season.
Lasota is the first freshman since 2003 to score more than 50 goals in a single season.
“She just goes out there, plays because she loves the sport and doesn’t let anything get to her,” Bianco said. “She’s been a huge asset to us.”
The list features six Big Ten players in total. Undefeated Maryland leads the pack with four nominees.
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