Our David Gernon previews Northwestern’s upcoming battle against Notre Dame.
After last Sunday’s furious comeback came up short in a disappointing loss at Stony Brook, the women’s lacrosse team looks to regroup this Thursday evening as they take on No. 12 Notre Dame in South Bend.
Northwestern fell two spots in the NCAA women’s lacrosse RPI rankings to No. 7 after their 1-1 road trip to the Eastern seaboard that included a win over Rutgers on Friday before the Sunday afternoon debacle on Long Island.
In their opponents Thursday, they’ll have another stiff test. Notre Dame started the season slowly and were 3-4 through their first seven games before turning it on recently, winning six of their last seven and catapulting into the top-15 as a result. Their recent stretch of success includes impressive road wins over two top-10 teams–thoroughly dominating No. 4 Virginia en route to a 14-4 victory before holding on at No. 7 Syracuse for an exciting, 12-11 victory in overtime.
The Fighting Irish are somewhat similar to the Wildcats in that they have a very talented, very young scorer. For Northwestern, it’s freshman phenom Selena Lasota, who will have to be on her game Thursday, while for the Irish, their offense is led by sophomore Courtney Fortunato– who is ninth in the country in goals per game at 3.43.
Notre Dame differs from Northwestern by having an experienced veteran they can count on in the draw circle. They’re led by Barbara Sullivan, a senior who is in the top-20 nationally in draw controls won per game at 4.14. Sullivan is also top-20 nationally in turnovers forced per game, so the Wildcats will have to be diligent in their stick handling.
We can look at a few opponents both teams have played to try and predict the outcome for Thursday, but no matter what it should be a hard fought, competitive game between two talented teams. A lot of these games for Northwestern happened early in the season and being so young, the team has surely evolved and matured significantly since then. I already mentioned the Virginia game and while both teams won, Notre Dame won in impressive fashion on the road by double digits while the Wildcats won by one at a neutral site in Atlanta. They’ve also both lost by one to the University of North Carolina and both lost convincingly to Duke, although Northwestern had the much closer scoreline. Both teams beat Michigan and Marquette handily and both beat Syracuse by a lone goal. In addition, they’ve both been beaten by Stony Brook, which should bring the Wildcats some solace after this weekend.
The game should be a well played affair between two talented teams and whoever wins will be able to add another impressive victory to their resumé.