Rapid Recap: Northwestern 18, Michigan 11


Daily file photo by Seeger Gray

Senior attacker Erin Coykendall. The New York native opened the scoring against Michigan on Thursday, tallying 4 goals in the matchup.

Charlotte Varnes, Senior Staffer

No. 1 Northwestern continued to look like the country’s most dominant team in a 18-11 defeat of Michigan in the Big Ten Semifinals. 

The Wildcats (16-1, 6-0 Big Ten) led the Wolverines from start to finish, avenging last season’s upset loss against Rutgers in the semifinals. Now, NU, undefeated since early February, looks to continue its winning ways in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday. 

Michigan looked formidable in the matchup’s opening minutes, outpacing the Cats in shots and causing a turnover after the first draw control. But senior attacker Erin Coykendall ensured their control didn’t last for long. Coykendall weaved past her defender to score the game’s first goal just three minutes in, then quickly tallied another to make it 2-0 NU. 

From there on out, it was NU’s’ game to lose. A crew of four different Cats’ players scored during the first quarter, paving the way to a 6-2 lead heading into the second quarter. By halftime, it was 10-6. 

The Wolverines worked hard to play catch-up, looking especially dangerous in transition and on the draw circle at times. Michigan managed some bursts of energy on attack, including outscoring NU 3-1 to end the second quarter and narrowing the lead to three multiple times in the game’s second half. But these offensive efforts fell short, as their defense was unable to keep up with NU’s relentless attack.

Here are three takeaways from the Cats’ win in the Big Ten semifinals. 


  1. NU’s well-rounded attack packs a punch

Senior attacker Izzy Scane is the country’s leading goal scorer and a strong candidate for the Tewaaraton Award. That’s been clear the entire season, and was on display again on Thursday as she tallied 4 goals and 4 assists.

But the Cats certainly aren’t just relying on Scane. Coykendall was dynamic on Thursday, recording 4 goals. Graduate attacker Hailey Rhatigan looked crafty as well, easily working past defenders to score as she managed 4 goals and 2 assists. 

Beyond the accomplishments of its flashiest goal-scorers, NU’s offensive unit simply looks polished and connected. Whether attackers are passing around to beat defenders or moving effortlessly in transition, the Cats have plenty of talent to go around. This depth has been key to NU ranking first in the country in scoring offense — and in the polls, too. 

  1. Laliberty anchors NU defense amid Wolverines’ comeback efforts 

Graduate goalkeeper Molly Laliberty has emerged as an integral piece of the Cats’ defense this season. She notched 8 saves, good for a .421 save rate on Thursday. 

The Cats’ defense certainly wasn’t perfect, however. NU was awarded a green card and 3 yellow cards, allowing Michigan to take advantage and score on multiple man-up opportunities. Both coaches expressed frustration with referees throughout the game, but the cards kept coming. 

The Wolverines’ were effective on defense in transition, tallying 7 caused turnovers. NU wasn’t quite as relentless, notching just 2 caused turnovers throughout the entire game. 

Laliberty certainly wasn’t to blame for these woes, however. She’s been a powerful presence for the Cats, no matter if she’s making big stops or directing her teammates on the field. 

  1. Cats poised to win first Big Ten Championship since 2021

NU has been seemingly unstoppable in 2023. The Cats have been especially dominant in conference play, with their closest margin of victory coming by 6 goals. Now, as NU advances to Saturday’s Big Ten Championship, it has an opportunity to cap off its perfect season in conference. 

It’s quite a different story from the 2022 Cats, who bowed out of the Big Ten semifinals in an eight-goal loss to Rutgers and lost three games during the regular season. A resurgent NU, led by Scane’s high-octane offense and buoyed by a confident defense, looks poised to win its second Big Ten Championship ever on Saturday. 

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Twitter: @charvarnes11

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