Lacrosse: No. 1 Northwestern gears up for NCAA quarterfinal clash versus No. 8 Loyola Maryland


Daily file photo by Seeger Gray

Senior attackers Erin Coykendall and Dylan Amonte and graduate student attacker Hailey Rhatigan celebrate Coykendall’s opening goal against Michigan on Sunday. The trio combined for five goals against the Wolverines.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

After escaping the NCAA Tournament’s second round with a slim 8-7 victory over No. 15 Michigan on Sunday, No. 1 Northwestern is looking to evade No. 8 Loyola Maryland on Thursday and book a trip to its fourth consecutive Final Four.

While the Wildcats (18-1, 6-0 Big Ten) cruised through March and April with little resistance, coach Kelly Amonte Hiller’s team faced an uphill climb for much of its last contest — and the battle-tested Greyhounds (19-2, 9-0 Patriot League) possess significant firepower.

The teams last tussled more than 37 years ago, when NU grabbed a 9-6 win on April 26, 1986 in Baltimore. Since Loyola Maryland won the teams’ only other meeting in 1985, the winner of Thursday’s game will take a 2-1 lead in the historical split.

With a visit to Cary, North Carolina on the line, here are three factors to keep in mind as the Cats take on the Greyhounds at Martin Stadium in an Elite Eight matchup Thursday night.

A showdown of elite defenses

Loyola Maryland’s identity is rooted in its shotstopping ability. The Greyhounds sit second in the NCAA in goals allowed per game, averaging just 6.67 scores conceded per game. 

Graduate student defender Katie Detwiler spearheads the stout defensive unit, which notably held No. 2 Syracuse to 9 goals March 15, tied for the Orange’s lowest scoring output of the season. 

The Greyhounds have allowed just one tally on two occasions this season and look to stifle a high-scoring NU attack that failed to find traction in its last game.

But, sophomore defender Samantha White and her cage-guarding compatriots proved their immense value in the Cats’ Sweet Sixteen triumph, earning their squad a win despite the attack registering just eight goals on Sunday.

White starred as a three-sport varsity athlete about 10 miles north of Loyola Maryland at Dulaney High School, and her 15th ranked scoring defense is eager to send the Greyhounds back to Baltimore battered and empty handed. 

 NU’s attack looks to get back on track

Graduate student attacker Izzy Scane and freshman attacker Madison Taylor fired a combined 17 shots at Wolverine goalkeeper Maya Santa-Maria’s cage last Sunday. The pair only managed to score one goal, with Scane registering a lone first quarter tally. Taylor was held without a point for the first time in her collegiate career.

At times, the Cats’ attack tried to force the action, seeking to right the ship by any means necessary. Senior attacker Erin Coykendall said NU was “frantic” in front of the goal, especially in the second and third quarters, when the team took 18 shots — 10 of which sailed off-target.

Now, NU must settle down offensively and pick its spots to counteract Loyola Maryland’s stifling defense. With her first NCAA tournament game under her belt, Taylor will likely return to her typical form. Scane will face double teams from the opening draw, so her teammates must find ways to play off of her.

The Cats and their national-high 17.05 goals per game must prove the last showing was a mere blip to advance Thursday night.

 Both teams ride red-hot winning streaks

After the Greyhounds’ tight-run loss to then-No. 2 Syracuse in March, Loyola Maryland coach Jen Adams’ team ripped off a 14-game winning streak, steamrolling through its conference slate with relative ease.

The Baltimore-based bunch bested Fairfield 11-6 in its first round game, before sneaking past No. 10 Stony Brook in a 9-8 nailbiter. Both of the Greyhounds’ losses this season came against top-10 opponents, and the team is eager to upset the tournament favorites on their home turf.

Since the Cats’ opening-day defeat in Syracuse, they’ve won 18 straight games in dominant fashion. While many expected Amonte Hiller’s team to coast through its Michigan matchup — since NU trounced the Wolverines by a combined 15 goals in its first two contests against the Big Ten foe — that test proved the toughest.

Regardless of recent struggles, a postseason win Thursday is crucial no matter how it’s sliced.

After 60-plus minutes of lacrosse, one team will punch its ticket to Cary, while the other will clean out its locker room — bidding farewell to several veterans’ collegiate careers in the process.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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