Warren’s World: Northwestern lacrosse is going to get even better

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Daily file photo by Josh Hoffman

The Wildcats run on the field in Ryan Fieldhouse. Northwestern is 2-1 at home so far this season.

Peter Warren, Sports Columnist

Northwestern’s offense was not supposed to be this good — at least this quickly.

In theory, a team losing the leading scorer in school history would result in a drop in offensive efficiency. But, that hasn’t been the case so far for the Wildcats. Although they’ve only played four games, this year’s NU team has looked like the best offense in the country.

Behind Tewaaraton nominee Selena Lasota, the NU offense was one of the best in Division I women’s lacrosse in 2019. The Cats were third in the NCAA in goals per game, and their 366 total goals was second in team history behind only the 2009 undefeated National Championship team.

Lasota was the engine driving the juggernaut — finishing with 85 goals and 19 assists as she was named Big Ten Attacker of the Year — but it wasn’t a one woman show. Running the attack from the X, Lindsey McKone led the team with 28 assists while also scoring 45 goals. Lauren Gilbert was elusive, slipping and sliding her way to 65 points. And after moving to attack from defense midseason, Izzy Scane scored 62 goals on her way to earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year award.

The quartet was a well-oiled machine, and it propelled NU to the Final Four.

Heading into the year, the biggest question was who was going to pick up Lasota’s offensive production. Some of it was destined to go to Gilbert, McKone and Scane, but they couldn’t do it all. And, so far, they haven’t.

Graduate attacker Liza Elder has been great having started the first four games on attack with Gilbert, McKone and Scane. Midfielder Megan Kinna averaged only 1.2 points per game her first three seasons, but has had at least two points in every game so far. Freshman Jane Hansen and Dylan Almonte have combined for five multi-goal games. And, aside from the Notre Dame game, draw specialist Brennan Dwyer has been in great form, creating a plethora of opportunities by winning draw after draw. In total, 20 different players have scored a goal through these first four games. Last year, 19 players scored at least one goal.

And while they’ve had help, Gilbert, McKone and Scane are still the fulcrums of the offense. All three are in the top 11 in the country in total points. Scane is tied for second in the country with 16 goals through two weeks, with Gilbert right behind her at 14. McKone has 10 assists, and had an outstanding five-goal, two-assist performance against Duke.

These individual successes have resulted in some staggering team performances. The Cats opened the season like a feisty bull leaving the stocks, becoming only the second team since 1986 to score 30 goals in a game in their merciless destruction of Detroit Mercy. They followed that up by thoroughly outplaying a ranked Duke team in the Bull City. They struggled to finish chances against then-No. 7 Notre Dame on Friday, but bounced back with another spectacular offensive showing against Arizona State.

While the offense has been electric to start the season, there are tough challenges ahead. In the just next three weeks, the Cats play No. 7 Syracuse and No. 1 North Carolina. Both have dynamic offenses, with the Orange led by the nation’s leading scorer Emily Hawryschuk and the Tar Heels helmed by Preseason Player of the Year Jamie Ortega. The matchup with North Carolina is particularly interesting, and not just because of the number next to their name. The Chapel Hill squad has had NU’s number over the last few seasons, including last season, when the Tar Heel defense held the Cats offense to a season-low 11 goals.

Not every game is going to be a 20-plus goal bonanza like three of these first four contests. There will be some days where a few more shots than normal ping off the orange posts or an opposing goalie extends a few more inches out to deflect a shot wide. Last Friday was one of those days. They will happen.

But as this offense gets into the flow of the season, those games will go by the wayside. This team is still learning how to play together — and yet still scored more than 28 goals in half of its games so far. The offense will, as crazy as it sounds, get better and more efficient.

For the rest of the country, that’s a scary thing.

Peter Warren is a Medill junior. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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