Lacrosse: Wildcats fall to Penn State in Big Ten semifinals, miss out on hosting NCAA regional


(Daily file photo by David Lee)

Selena Lasota looks to turn on a defender. Lasota scored six goals Friday, but it wasn’t enough for Northwestern to top Penn State.

Ella Brockway, Assistant Sports Editor


No. 7 Northwestern’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal matchup against No. 16 Penn State opened with promise. The Wildcats won the first draw, and within 13 seconds were back in the draw circle, this time with a 1-0 lead off a goal from senior attacker Sheila Nesselbush.

The Nittany Lions controlled the next draw, and needed only 36 seconds to strike back with a goal of their own to tie the score. It was a sign of the boxing match between the two teams that was to come.

In the next three minutes, Penn State would score two more unanswered goals to build a 3-1 lead and begin a pattern that would last for the rest of the game: When NU threw one punch, the Nittany Lions hit back with two.

The Cats (13-5, 5-1 Big Ten) were knocked out of the conference tournament in a 21-16 loss to Penn State (10-9, 3-3) on Friday. The Nittany Lions’ 21 goals were the most NU has allowed this season, topping the 20 given up in an April 26 loss to No. 3 Maryland, and the most allowed in a game by the program since 2013.

NU’s attention now turns to the NCAA Tournament, where it will face Richmond (16-3, 8-1 Atlantic 10) in a first-round game in Towson, Maryland. The Cats did not receive one of the tournament’s top eight seeds, and therefore will miss out on hosting first- and second-round action.

Redshirt freshman Julie Krupnick and junior Mallory Weisse split time at the goalkeeper position for the second straight game. Krupnick had eight of nine total saves between the two, but allowed 13 goals in the first half.

Junior attacker Selena Lasota scored a season-high 6 goals on seven shots in the loss, rebounding for a strong individual offensive performance after two yellow cards forced her early exit in the second half of the defeat against the Terrapins.

Senior attacker Shelby Fredericks finished with four assists and six draw controls, securing her position as the program’s all-time leader in draw controls with a current total of 474.

The Cats and Nittany Lions held fairly even in most offensive statistical categories in the game: the teams had 19 draw controls each, and finished with 29 and 30 shots on goal, respectively. Penn State held the edge defensively, though, winning battles on saves (13 to 9), ground balls (19 to 16) and caused turnovers (13 to 6). The Nittany Lions’ defense held NU scoreless on nine of its 12 free-position opportunities.

Penn State went on a five-goal run midway through the first half to take a 10-5 goal lead. When NU answered with two goals hoping to close the gap before halftime, the Nittany Lions fired back with three straight scores in less than two minutes to make it 13-7.

The Cats managed to put one more goal on the board to end the first period, but Penn State scored another two to build its lead to seven early in the second half. Junior attacker Holly Korn scored to start a minute-long three-goal stretch for NU with under 20 minutes remaining, but the Nittany Lions punched back once again, taking advantage of two man-up situations to rattle off four goals and put the game away.

This was the first time in the four seasons since the Big Ten began sponsoring lacrosse that the Cats did not play more than one game in the conference tournament. They were also knocked out in the semifinals by Penn State during the tournament’s inaugural season in 2015.

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