Lacrosse: Wildcats seek revenge in Big Ten opener


Daily file photo by Sam Schumacher

Lauren Murray catches a pass from her teammate. The senior midfielder has been essential to Northwestern’s defense this season.

Dan Waldman, Assistant Sports Editor


The Wildcats are seeking revenge this week, opening their Big Ten season with a rematch of last year’s NCAA Quarterfinals.

Thursday’s bout will feature the two most prolific women’s lacrosse programs in the country, setting up a showdown between No. 8 Northwestern (4-4) and No. 1 Maryland (8-0), the reigning champion. The two winningest programs will battle it out in College Park, Maryland, for the first time since the Terrapins handled the Cats 17-5 in the NCAA Tournament.

In last year’s disappointing defeat, Maryland put 11 more shots on goal than NU and took advantage of the Cats’ lack of discipline, earning 6 free-position shots. The Terrapins also completed 10-of-12 clears while NU struggled, completing only 1.

However, the Cats are a different team this season.

Prior to NU’s matchup with Maryland, then-freshman attacker Selena Lasota led the team with 67 goals — 22 more than then-junior attacker Kaleigh Craig, the second-leading scorer. This season, the team’s scoring is more spread out, with its top four scorers all within eight goals of each other.

Instead of running the offense through last season’s premier scorer, the Cats are focusing on making everyone a scoring threat to increase the team’s shots on goal. The squad has seen growth on offense, especially from senior leader Craig, sophomore attacker Shelby Fredericks and junior attacker Christina Esposito.

Despite the team missing junior midfielder Sheila Nesselbush — who already has 9 goals in four games — for the last four games with a lower body injury, NU still has been able to generate 10.75 goals per game during that stretch.

But even with the Cats’ more balanced offense, the team will still have to find a way to crack Maryland’s stifling defense, which is No. 7 in the country in goals allowed per game. The Terrapins still have not allowed a team to score double-digit goals this season.

Along with its suffocating defense, Maryland also boasts the No. 3 scoring offense in the nation, averaging more than 15 goals per game. NU has scored more than 15 goals this season only once, against the No. 53 defense in the country, Marquette. With the Terrapins’ high-powered offense and lockdown defense, the Cats will have to control the tempo of the game by winning the possession battle. And luckily for them, Fredericks has been dominating draw controls.

The sophomore set a school record for the most draw controls in a single game against Colorado last week, recording 10. The Cats average 12 draw controls per game, only two less than Maryland averages.

Fredericks will need to set the tone early for NU, but the Cats will also need freshman goalkeeper Mallory Weisse to step up.

After recording her third double-digit save game, Weisse received both Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week and Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors. Weisse leads the Big Ten with 7.63 saves per game, but she will face her toughest task yet Thursday.

The Cats will take on the Terrapins at 6 p.m. before traveling to No. 16 Penn to wrap up the team’s road trip.

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