Rapid Recap: Northwestern 18, Boston College 6


Daily file photo by Seeger Gray

Northwestern celebrates against Michigan in the NCAA second round. The Cats captured their eight national championship Sunday against Boston College.

Charlotte Varnes, Senior Staffer

CARY, N.C. – For the first time since 2012, Northwestern is on top of the lacrosse world.

The Wildcats (21-1, 6-0 Big Ten) pulled out a 12-goal victory over Boston College in a slippery NCAA Final on Sunday.

The Eagles won the opening draw, but goalkeeper Shea Dolce threw the ball out of bounds to immediately give it away. NU quickly capitalized, as freshman attacker Madison Taylor drove in to score on a free position opportunity.

From there, the game turned into a back and forth battle. Multiple players fell within the game’s first five minutes, struggling in the rainy conditions. Northwestern dominated most of the possession time in the first quarter, but was unable to translate it into many goals. On defense, graduate student goalkeeper Molly Laliberty held strong though, allowing no goals in the first 15 minutes of the game. At the end of the first quarter, the Cats led 3-0.

Boston College began to show signs of life in the second quarter, taking advantage of a series of turnovers to get their first goal of the contest less than five minutes into the period. The Eagles won the next draw as well, and junior midfielder Belle Smith immediately scored to narrow the Cats’ lead to 3-2. This comeback attempt didn’t last for long, however, as NU found its groove on attack toward the end of the second quarter, scoring three straight goals to end the period.

From the third quarter onward, the Cats took control. The weather eased, and the turnovers came less and less. Taylor opened up the third quarter scoring, earning a hat trick, and a score from junior midfielder Emerson Bohlig shortly followed. Entering the fourth quarter, NU led 11-4. The Eagles spent the rest of the game playing catch-up on both sides of the field.

Now, the Cats are basking in the glory of their long-awaited eighth national title. Here are the most important takeaways from their national championship victory Sunday.


1. Pass-heavy, patient offense pays dividends

Despite a turnover-heavy first quarter, the Cats managed to find their footing on offense. NU took its time, as senior attacker Erin Coykendall passed up multiple free position chances rather than shooting in order to give her attack more time to settle in. The Cats continually focused on moving the ball around the perimeter, allowing them to make the most of opportunities when they arose.

This style of attack also lent itself to earning more free position shots. Constantly moving and working their way into the eight-meter, NU managed to earn seven free positions by halftime. The Cats found success on two of their first three free positions, as Taylor scored twice in a row to power NU to an early lead. Though the Eagles attempted a comeback, this offensive momentum and patient outlook buoyed the Cats in their victory.

2. Winning the turnover battle

It was a wet one in Cary. Prior to game time, it had been raining for nearly 24 hours. The field was soggy, players’ jerseys were soaked and the ball seemed especially slippery.

The rain seemed to contribute to more turnovers than usual for both teams. Entering Sunday, the Eagles averaged 17.94 turnovers per game while the Cats were tallying 12.85. By halftime, Boston College had 12 turnovers and NU had 9.

The Cats didn’t let this get them down, though. One of the Cats’ second quarter goals came off senior defender Hannah Gillespie taking advantage of an Eagles’ turnover, passing it down the field until graduate attacker Hailey Rhatigan had a one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Defenders senior Jane Hansen and sophomore Samantha White came up big after many turnovers, picking up ground balls in the midfield and ensuring the ball made it back to NU’s offense.

3. A complete showing from the Cats

The Cats have made it to four straight NCAA Championship Weekends. The 2023 team is by far the most complete on all sides of the field.

The addition of Laliberty on defense was perhaps the biggest difference-maker for the Cats this season. Named the IWCLA Division III Goalkeeper of the Year multiple times, Laliberty remained level-headed in the biggest moments of Friday and Sunday’s matchups. Heroics from the rest of the unit, from causing turnovers to winning the ground ball, were key as well.

And it’s impossible to forget about NU’s nation-leading scoring offense. Graduate attacker Izzy Scane finished the season leading the nation in goals, and contributions from Coykendall, Taylor and Rhatigan were huge as well. These four players, alongside the rest of the unit, were vital to lifting the Cats’ attack to new heights this season.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @charvarnes11

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