Lacrosse: Wildcats outlast rain, Cardinals in first round of NCAA Tournament

Ava Wallace, Reporter


Lacrosse


Before a thunderstorm darkened the skies above Lakeside Field and delayed the start of the second half by two hours and 33 minutes, No. 8 Northwestern and Louisville were plodding through a lackluster matchup.

But apparently all it took were a few bolts of lightning to galvanize the players.

The Wildcats (13-6) took the first-round win 10-7 in the NCAA Tournament against the Cardinals (10-8), the second time in as many years NU defeated Louisville in the national tourney. NU improved to 21-0 on Lakeside Field in NCAA contests and moves on to face Notre Dame on Sunday at Lakeside Field in hopes of reaching the quarterfinals.

The score was tied 4 apiece before halftime and the weather delay, but the Cats came out for the second half whooping and bouncing through their warmups. The difference between the two teams after the rain delay was stark — Louisville walked back out to the field solemnly.

Freshman Shelby Fredericks won the first two draws of the half. Her classmate Selena Lasota scored her third goal of the game just over a minute into the period, then scored again five minutes later.

That two-goal difference, plus an empty-net goal from senior midfielder Blake McHugh with 21 seconds left in the game for insurance, was all NU needed to pull away from Louisville for good.

It was no easy task. Rain fell throughout the entire second half, which not only made the ball slipperier but also altered the tightness of strings on the lacrosse sticks. Lasota, a Tewaaraton Award nominee and the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year, said the key for playing in those conditions on a water-logged turf field is focus.

“Personally for me, the rain brings some kind of energy,” Lasota said. “Everyone gets pumped up. Your sticks are getting wet, they’re different, they’re changing, but you just have to adapt just like you adapt to any other change you experience on the field.”

Indeed, the rain brought out a fiery attacking core in favor of the calculating, patient offense of NU’s first half. Evidently also feeling the pressure of a tie game in the NCAA Tournament, the Cats sharpened to limit turnovers from seven in the first half to four and won in the draw circle 12-7. Fredericks claimed four draws for herself and came up just short of Louisville’s Tewaaraton Award nominee Kaylin Morissette, who sits second in the NCAA in draw controls and nabbed five Friday.

Despite winning only two draw controls in the second half, Louisville didn’t deflate in the face of a few goals. Morissette beat NU’s defense to score her 43rd and 44th goals of the season and Kelli Gerding scored on an open net — but the Cats’ lengthy possessions ate too much clock for Louisville to pose a successful comeback.

Lasota led the Cats on the scoresheet with four goals, but junior Kaleigh Craig spent the most time with the ball in her stick, dictating ball movement on offense as usual and putting in two goals. Craig extended her scoring streak to 30 goals in the past 11 games. Junior Christina Esposito came off the bench to also score twice.

Altogether, the game lasted just under four hours and 30 minutes. Although NU started play with the sun shining and walked off the field in the dark surrounded by fog, Fredericks saw a special value in the weather delay.

“We just were together. That’s our favorite time, that’s our favorite place to be,” Fredericks said. “It didn’t even need to be said, ‘no phones,’ we were in game mode. This game was the last we had guaranteed, so … we just kind of thought of it as more time together.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Northwestern’s opponent in the next round of the NCAA Tournament. NU will face Notre Dame. The Daily regrets the error.

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Twitter: @AvaRWallace

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