Northwestern lacrosse falls to Penn State in Big Ten Tournament

In the semifinals of the inaugural Big Ten women’s lacrosse tournament–held on Rutgers’ campus in New Jersey on Friday afternoon–the Northwestern Wildcats fell to the Penn State Nittany Lions 13-10, after scoring just four second-half goals.

Northwestern, No. 3 in the Big Ten, fell behind early, allowing the No. 2 Nittany Lions to score the game’s first three goals with relative ease as they were able to cut right to the net. But the Wildcats, ranked 9th in the nation, had an answer, as they scored four unanswered to take a 4-3 lead, previewing a half that would be filled of back-and-forth runs.

The Nittany Lions, though, came right back with four more goals of their own–all from different players–as the Wildcats’ defense slacked off again while the offense couldn’t get anything going. Penn State took advantage of the young Northwestern unit’s apparent blip in focus but wasn’t able to put it away completely as NU scored two of the half’s last three goals–both from Kaleigh Craig–to head into the break to cut PSU’s lead to 8-6.

The second half was much more balanced after Penn State’s Steph Lazo scored two minutes in as the teams traded goals for the next few minutes. Each team locked down on defense, though, as just seven goals were scored in the first 24:28 of the half and only nine in all 30 minutes.

One issue that plagued the Wildcats all afternoon was their inability to get star freshman Selena Lasota going on offense. Lasota, one of the top freshmen in the country this season, scored a slick goal early in the first half but was phased out by Penn State for much of the day. This forced NU to get offense from Kara Mupo (three goals) and Craig (four goals), who played well, but didn’t get much support.

When Penn State’s Tatum Coffey (three goals, two assists) scored at the 5:32 mark to break a 10-plus minute scoring drought for both teams, however, NU’s lack of scoring punch made it seem impossible for the Wildcats to come back. It’s hard to blame Bridget Bianco–NU’s starting goalie–and Brooke Jones, who replaced Bianco right before halftime, for the loss when the forwards failed to garner significant pressure. This let Penn State hang out in the offensive zone and barrage NU’s goal with plenty of shots.

Sheila Nesselbush tried to rally a comeback with a goal at the 1:48 mark but wasn’t followed by her teammates with anymore as Penn State was able to lock down and seal the victory, propelling them into the Big Ten championship game. Six different Nittany Lions scored in the game (with three hat tricks) compared to four for the Wildcats.

Northwestern scored just four times in the second half, playing from behind the entire time. NU had plenty of chances but couldn’t convert, partially due to poor shots but also because of Penn State goalie Emi Smith, who had seven big saves. Coffey, Lazo and Madison Cyr led the way for the No. 7 nationally Nittany Lions.

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