Lacrosse: Writers ruminate about late-season success, upcoming Big Ten Tournament

Selena+Lasota+whips+a+pass+to+a+teammate.+The+senior+has+scored+four+or+more+goals+in+four+consecutive+games.

Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

Selena Lasota whips a pass to a teammate. The senior has scored four or more goals in four consecutive games.

Charlie Goldsmith and Karim Noorani

Northwestern finished the regular season 12-4, and its 5-1 Big Ten mark was good for second in the conference. With the Big Ten Tournament coming this weekend, The Daily’s lacrosse writers discussed the No. 5 Wildcats’ three-game winning streak as well as the Cats’ chances to win the conference tournament.

1. NU finished the regular season with three straight wins, two of which came over top-10 teams. What did that closing stretch show you about this team and its postseason potential?

Charlie Goldsmith: Selena Lasota has played her best lacrosse of the season down the stretch. After beating a top-10 Penn team in late March, coach Kelly Amonte Hiller referenced a dichotomy opposing teams have when they face the Cats’ offense. They can either face guard Lasota and send traps at her when she has the ball, or they can defend her in a more traditional way. The first option opens things up for other attackers and midfielders — especially Lindsey McKone and Lauren Gilbert — while the second is an invitation for Lasota to score five or more goals in a game. Having such a dangerous scorer is probably the most valuable piece a team can have in postseason play, and NU’s strong close to the season showed Lasota can be the driving force behind the team’s success.

Karim Noorani: Mallory Weisse has played really well since she was named starting goalkeeper against Maryland. Weisse has averaged 12 saves per game over the Cats’ past four contests. Multiple NU players have said her saves help spur the offense. The Cats’ offense is leading the nation in points scored per game, but the defense holding opposing teams to low scoring outputs bodes well for NU’s playoff chances.

2. The Big Ten Tournament is this weekend, but most conferences have already wrapped up their postseason tournaments. What happened, and how will any of these results affect the Cats?

Noorani: Matchups are everything. No. 3 Boston College by far had the best resume in the country heading into the ACC tournament. However, they lost to No. 2 North Carolina due to a poor offensive showing in the second half. This shows that the Cats could have a fighting chance against No. 1 Maryland. NU held its own in their regular season matchup against the Terrapins, though the Cats fell short after failing to sustain their play for the final five minutes.

Goldsmith: Leading a program that’s won seven national championships, Amonte Hiller likes to think big picture. So even though it’s less clear which lower-seeded teams will be in NU’s path to the Final Four, what matters most to the team is who it would be projected to face if it takes care of business and makes it there. In the NCAA’s most updated revealed seedings, the Cats are slated as the No. 5 seed that could face No. 4 Syracuse in the Elite Eight. While the Orange lost 14-13 to No. 2 Boston College in the ACC Tournament, they beat the Cats 15-14 in February. In the Big Ten Tournament, with a potential championship matchup against No. 1 Maryland, NU has a great opportunity to elevate itself to a fourth or third overall seed and avoid playing any of the teams currently ranked in the top four until the national semifinals. That’s especially notable since the Cats’ only losses this season are to those four teams currently ranked ahead of them.

3. NU has never won the Big Ten Tournament, and if it does this year, it will probably have to beat Maryland. What do the Cats need to do to finally get over the hump and beat the Terrapins?

Goldsmith: In NU’s close loss to Maryland earlier in April, the Cats were extremely effective at playing at Maryland’s up-tempo pace. The Terrapins race the ball up and down the field for all 70 minutes, and before that game’s lightning delay, NU had success playing that dynamic style. After that game, the players said they didn’t know why they weren’t able to keep that up following the delay, but they’ve already proven they can make Maryland uncomfortable.

Noorani: The Cats need a strong all-around offensive showing to keep up with Maryland. Lasota is a big-game player who is averaging five goals per game in her last seven contests, but she simply can’t do it alone. Once defenses start to focus on her, teammates like McKone, Gilbert and freshman midfielder Izzy Scane have to play better. Scane needs to be more aggressive shooting her shot while McKone and Gilbert have to find ways to be more efficient.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @2021_charlie
Email: [email protected]

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