WNUR Sports’s Lynden Ostrander (@Lynden_O) previews today’s match-up in the second round of the NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament between the Northwestern University Wildcats and the Stanford University Cardinal.
Is it any surprise that the Cats’ are a number 2 seed in the NCAA tourney? I mean they’ve only won seven of the last eight championships… yeah, no big deal. Even more impressive is this year the NCAA tourney expanded from 16 to 26 teams. What was shocking was the 8-3 beatdown Northwestern unleashed upon the Florida Gators in the ALC conference championship game. The Cats have bounced back from that crushing 22-4 defeat to Florida and an earlier season loss to UNC and seem poised to complete another 3-peat.
When you take a gander at the bracket you notice that Northwestern has played and beaten the number 4, 5, 7, and 8 seeds. And when your coach is the all-time winningest coach in postseason history with an astonishing .825 winning percentage and 32-2 in her career, the odds are in your favor.
First up the Cats will play host to the Stanford Cardinal. The Cardinal got to this point by winning their conference championship game and NCAA first round game by 1 goal over Notre Dame on Friday. So, they like close games and if I’m Northwestern the last thing I want is a dogfight with under two minutes to play with the pressure squarely on your side.
Stanford made the first meeting against the Cats’ this year a scrapfest. The Cats are undefeated at home this year, but Stanford almost changed that. Last month Northwestern was up 8-7 going into the locker room at halftime. Then Northwestern came out and played lights out defensively, only yielding a single goal in the second, and won the game 12-8.
But this Stanford team is a tough and feisty bunch. If Northwestern wants to win they have to shutdown Rachel Ozer of Stanford just like they did Shannon Gilroy of Florida in the ALC title game. Ozer has a whopping 69 points. The Cats also have to contain Julia Burns she had 3 goals last meeting versus Northwestern.
If Northwestern wants to win they must hold Stanford under ten goals. They did last time and won. Stanford averages 14 goals a game, but the ‘Cats held them to half their average last meeting.
If Alyssa Leonard can win draw controls like she did against Florida, Northwestern will be in good shape. Leonard owns every department of draw controls in Northwestern history; the Cats’ need her to be her consistent self.
Kat Deronda and Kelly Rich have come on strong for Northwestern. Both posted hat tricks against Penn and Notre Dame. The two also combined for five goals and two assists in the monster win versus Florida.
The Cats’ need Taylor Thorton and Erin Fitzgerald to be on their game. Both have been the reliable tandem offensively and the usual spark plugs for the team.
Northwestern is undefeated at home this year, close to two thousand fans will probably be at Lakeside Field, the team is gunning for a 3-peat, and the odds are in the Cats’ favor. Northwestern knows the Cardinal are a tough and balanced team and are not over-looking them. Yes, there is a bit of rust since the Cats haven’t played in a while, but this is the hottest team in Lax right now and a team of destiny.
I predict a 12-3 shellacking of the Cardinal Sunday afternoon.