Lacrosse: Wildcats fall to Maryland in Big Ten Tournament final


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Nicole Beardsley goes to the ground. The junior attacker and the Wildcats fell to Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament final.

Dan Waldman, Assistant Sports Editor


Just 36 hours after freshman midfielder Megan Kinna intercepted a Penn State clear, drove to the cage and slotted home a game-winning goal to punch Northwestern’s ticket to the Big Ten Tournament finals, the Wildcats had been thoroughly defeated.

No. 1 seed and tournament host Maryland (19-0, 6-0) got out to an early lead on No. 3 seed NU (10-9, 4-2 Big Ten) in the conference final tournament Sunday, running over the Cats 14-6 in a mostly one-sided affair. It was the second year in a row the Terrapins had taken down the Cats in the conference tournament finals in dominant fashion.

Everything seemed to be going against NU heading into Sunday’s game. To compete with the top team in the country, the Cats would need fresh legs and to be rolling on all cylinders. But the team’s semifinal game against the No. 2 seed Nittany Lions (15-3, 5-1 Big Ten) was delayed nearly 90 minutes due to weather, and it did not finish until roughly 1 a.m. Saturday.

But coach Kelly Amonte Hiller refused to use the late night as an excuse, crediting the team’s slow start Sunday when it gave up four straight goals, to figuring out defensive adjustments.

“We were kind of figuring things out defensively and then we kind of buckled down after that and did a pretty good job for the rest of the half,” Amonte Hiller said. “It didn’t have anything to do with the Friday night rain.”

Despite Friday’s rain delay, the Cats erupted in celebration following the team’s upset win over Penn State, jumping along the rain-soaked sidelines as Kinna handed NU the 12-11 win.

NU never trailed in Friday’s game, getting an early start after senior midfielder Catie Ingrilli scored less than a minute into regulation. Senior attacker Christina Esposito led the way for the Cats, scoring 3 goals on the day and helping set up Kinna’s game-winner.

However, NU’s momentum ended with Kinna’s goal, as the team couldn’t handle undefeated Maryland. It took the Cats 16 minutes to put their first goal on the board, when junior attacker Nicole Beardsley finally got the better of Terrapins goalie Megan Taylor.

Beardsley scored 2 goals in the championship and was one of the few bright spots of NU’s offense in the game.

“It’s just finding my place in terms of working to my teammates’ strengths and knowing what they like to do and where they’re going to be,” Beardsley said. “Offensively our biggest success is when we’re moving the ball and looking for each other.”

After Esposito and senior attacker Danita Stroup scored back-to-back goals to cut Maryland’s lead to 6-4 heading into halftime, the Cats defense faltered.

The Terrapins started the second half with a 5-0 run that buried NU’s chances of winning its first Big Ten title and carried the hosts to another championship.

“They got about three or four draw controls from calls from the officials, and any time you have possessions like that, you get some momentum,” Amonte Hiller said. “We had possessions, and we didn’t capitalize on our shots and they did, and that’s the difference.”

Sunday’s loss meant the team did not receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. That forced players to wait several hours to be sure of their tournament fate, though the Cats did secure a berth and will open play against Albany.

As the season nears its end, Esposito said NU’s play across the weekend showed that the Cats can compete with anyone.

“We have the best conference in the country, so it’s always a battle no matter who we are playing,” she said. “But we like that, we don’t want it to be easy.”

This story was updated at 9:00 p.m. with information that Northwestern secured a berth to the NCAA Tournament.

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