Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Lacrosse: No. 1 Northwestern takes down No. 4 Michigan, secures outright Big Ten regular season title

Daily file photo by Henry Frieman
Graduate student attacker Dylan Amonte surveys her attacking options from behind the cage in the March 30 Rutgers matchup. Amonte scored the game-winning goal in Northwestern’s 13-12 victory over Michigan Sunday.

Almost a year ago, coach Hannah Nielsen took an underdog Michigan squad into Evanston for an NCAA Tournament bout, drawing up a near-perfect scheme that fell just short of stunning the eventual national champions.

While the Wolverines lost 8-7, the mid-May matchup marked a telltale sign that Nielsen’s program had arrived on the national scene — and it commanded respect.

Fast-forward 343 days, No. 1 Northwestern and No. 4 Michigan met in Ann Arbor with the outright Big Ten regular season crown on the line Sunday. Once again, the Wildcats (13-2, 5-1 Big Ten) and the Wolverines (14-2, 4-2 Big Ten) battled relentlessly in a back-and-forth affair, but NU carried just enough composure to nab a 13-12 victory.

With the win, coach Kelly Amonte Hiller’s group captured its second consecutive conference regular season title and the Big Ten Tournament’s No. 1 seed. For senior defender Kendall Halpern, the game marked an ideal scenario for the ’Cats.

“To go chase a title — a regular season title — is exactly where we want to be,” Halpern said following her team’s defeat of Ohio State a week prior.

Michigan set the tempo from the opening draw, slowing the game’s pace to limit NU opportunities in its attacking zone. Nielsen’s game plan appeared simple, yet effective. Her team chewed clock in possession to avoid a footrace against the conference’s most potent scoring unit.

Defensively, the Wolverines keyed in on graduate student attacker Izzy Scane. Behind Michigan defender Maddie Burns’ tenacious effort, the Wolverines held Scane shotless in the first half, and the ’Cats entered halftime down 6-4.

Then, NU painted the draw circle purple as the gothic garbed circle crew pulled down nine consecutive draw controls in the third quarter.

Junior midfielder Samantha Smith and freshman midfielder and defender Madison Smith staunchly snatched momentum from Michigan attacker Lily Montemarano, and the ’Cats transformed a comeback effort into a backbreaking push.

NU’s Tewaaraton nominee trio of Scane, graduate student attacker Erin Coykendall and sophomore attacker Madison Taylor evaded consistent pressure to combine for six of the ’Cats’ seven third-quarter goals, which vaulted the visitors to an 11-8 advantage heading into the last 15 minutes.

After storming back from a six-goal deficit in an April 14 victory against Johns Hopkins, the Wolverines launched another late run Sunday afternoon. Michigan scored four consecutive conversions following a Scane free-position goal, knotting the game at 12 with five minutes left.

Inching toward the cage, graduate student attacker Dylan Amonte fired a howitzer beyond Wolverine goalkeeper Erin O’Grady, dealing the decisive game- and championship-clinching blow as the clock ticked under three minutes.

Although Scane, Coykendall and Taylor combined for 14 points, NU’s dogged defensive display differentiated the two foes in crunch-time. Scooping the season’s most vital ground ball thus far, junior defender Sammy White allowed the ’Cats to ice the one-goal victory.

Amonte Hiller’s group will return to Martin Stadium May 2, when NU will face the winner of No. 4 seed Michigan and No. 5 seed Johns Hopkins in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal.

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