Northwestern Lacrosse vs. Notre Dame Preview
By David Gernon
After defeating the Louisville Cardinals 10-7 Friday evening after a 153 minute delay due to lightning, the #8 seed Northwestern Wildcats will be taking on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Sunday afternoon with an Elite Eight berth on the line.
Like their last opponent, the Irish are a team Northwestern has already beaten, but it was a back-and-forth affair that ended in only a 10-9, slim victory for the Wildcats. We’ll try to use that game to see what sorts of things each team may try to do in their upcoming matchup.
It was an important victory for coach Kelly Amonte Hiller’s team, an on-the-road, out-of-conference game that took place only a few days after a tough road loss at Stony Brook, the Wildcats showed impressive resolve in mounting their comeback and gritting out the victory.
Sophomore defender Sheila Nesselbush scored the game winner with 3:46 remaining after junior Kaleigh Craig knifed through the heart of Notre Dame’s defense and finished high to tie things up 70 seconds earlier.
This was a young team on the road after a tough loss and holding on for the win while Notre Dame laid siege at Bridget Bianco’s goal in the last three and a half minutes was no small feat.
The game was a sloppy one, with the teams combining for over 40 turnovers. But freshman Shelby Fredericks did well in the draw control circle, finishing with five as the Wildacts ended with a 13-7 advantage.
One thing the Wildcats will definitely be looking to replicate is the excellent defense they played on Notre Dame sophomore Cortney Fortunato. Fortunato is a dynamic scorer who finished in the top-20 nationally in goals per game. Amonte Hiller and her staff deployed Ally Mueller, making her first career start, to face-guard Fortunato and was able to hold her to a lone goal. If the Wildcats are able to shut down one of Notre Dame’s top scorers again like that, their chances of winning go up considerably.
Like Lasota for Northwestern, Notre Dame relies heavily on Fortunato, but they have other attackers the Wildcats will have to worry about too: junior Rachel Sexton has 34 goals on the year while sophomore Heidi Annaheim has netted 24.
Speaking of Lasota, she did not have a great game in South Bend, but Northwestern prevailed anyway. After a few games in a row that could be considered a down stretch, she was back at her best Friday evening in a big way with a five point effort, including four goals and an assist. If she plays like that and the Wildcats shut down Fortunato, one has to like their chances.