Lacrosse: No. 2 Northwestern looks to lock up Big Ten regular-season title versus No. 12 Maryland


Daily file photo by Seeger Gray

Graduate student midfielder Elle Hansen controls the ball in the offensive zone. Hansen tallied 29 points in 15 games this season.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

A week after securing a share of the regular-season conference title, No. 2 Northwestern returns home to Martin Stadium on Saturday with one goal in mind: defeating No. 12 Maryland and winning the Big Ten regular-season championship outright.

While the Wildcats (14-1, 5-0 Big Ten) cruised past Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, on April 15 en route to their 14th straight win, the Terrapins (12-4, 4-1 Big Ten) fell for the first time in conference play against then-No. 18 Penn State on April 13. Maryland’s unexpected slip-up granted NU the upper hand in the race for the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, but Terrapin coach Cathy Reese’s team will enter Evanston with a massive chip on its shoulder, seeking a statement road victory to bounce back before postseason play.

As two of the nation’s top scoring and draw control units face off in a primetime duel with playoff implications, expect an action-packed contest where neither team will give the other an inch of separation. Maryland leads the all-time series 18-10  — notably knocking off the Cats 15-9 last season to secure the regular-season conference title. 

Here’s some key storylines to keep in mind as NU gears up for a grudge match in front of a sellout stadium on Saturday:

Familiar foes face off on the sidelines

Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller is no stranger to Reese. The pair won two national championships in their playing days for the Terrapins and built Hall of Fame resumes in their coaching careers. 

Both coaches possess the winningest records in the histories of their respective schools and combine for 12 national championships in their coaching careers — Amonte Hiller has won seven, while Reese holds five. Reese carries a 9-4 record against the Cats and aims to knock off her decorated competitor’s squad from its undefeated conference season hopes.

In a matchup of two of the Big Ten’s premier coaching minds, the former teammates look to notch significant momentum in each’s final regular-season showdown.

Matchup to monitor: Izzy Scane versus Libby May

Two of the country’s most clinical scorers headline a compelling attacking contest. Terrapin attacker Libby May and graduate student attacker Izzy Scane lead their teams in goals scored and could pose a major thorn in the opposing defenses’ sides.

Through 15 games, Scane has scored an NCAA Division I-high 72 goals and possesses the most goals and points per game in conference play. Meanwhile, May leads Maryland with 48 goals in 16 outings, sitting fourth in the Big Ten at three goals per game. 

May ran rampant against NU last spring, scoring seven goals and tallying an assist to lead her squad to a victory. While May plays a crucial role to her team’s success, attempting to outscore Scane and her Tewaaraton-worthy stick will be an especially tall task for the Hereford product.

Neither scorer stands alone, as star-studded supporting casts will showcase the depth of both teams. Terrapin attacker Eloise Clevenger and midfielder Kori Edmondson each eclipsed the 40-point mark this season and cap off a three-headed Maryland monster with May. However, senior attacker Erin Coykendall, graduate student attacker Hailey Rhatigan and freshman midfielder Madison Taylor hold all the tools to be giant-slayers as they have all season, leaving the teams poised to craft a scoring frenzy at both ends of the field.

Plummeting temperatures will play a factor

Each of the Cats’ nine home victories took place inside the fortress of Ryan Fieldhouse, but NU must brave the elements in its final regular season home contest. While Amonte Hiller’s team carries an undefeated outdoor record, Saturday’s weather report appears daunting.

With temperatures dipping into the 30s to low-40s, the battle under the lights carries a chilly undertone. Checks and knocks should pack an extra sting, and the Cats’ fast-flowing and high-flying attack may not storm out of the gates as per usual.

Regardless, both teams play in the same conditions, and tensions should heat up quickly in spite of the cold.

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Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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