Northwestern Lacrosse vs. Maryland Preview and Podcast

Last time NU and Maryland squared off, things didn't fall the Wildcats' way. Photo credit:

Last time NU and Maryland squared off, things didn’t fall the Wildcats’ way. Photo credit:

By Tara Wendell

This past weekend the ‘cats made it through the first two rounds of NCAA tournament play. They beat Louisville on Friday, 10-7, then put on a dominant performance against Notre Dame on Sunday, winning 16-11. It was the best play we’ve seen from them all season, with NU outshooting the Irish 28-17 and five different Wildcats scoring on Sunday.

The win sets up a date with the Maryland Terrapins in College Park, MD, this Sunday at 11 CT. It’s going to be a really difficult game for the ‘Cats; they surely aren’t favored in the matchup. The Terps are 18-1 this season and dominated Northwestern earlier in the season with a 16-5 win in Evanston. That said, Northwestern was not at the top of their game then. Here are a few keys that could take NU past Maryland.

Bridget Bianco: Bianco has struggled in the postseason. Against Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, she allowed eight goals and had one save before she was pulled just over 24 minutes in. She bounced back a bit against the weaker Cardinals, with seven goals allowed and three saves, which puts her save percentage for that game at .300. Then against Notre Dame, she allowed 11 goals and had just two saves, for a save percentage of .153 on the game. She was lucky to have NU’s offense firing on all cylinders in the second half. But, that won’t be enough against Maryland. If the ‘cats are going to beat the Terps, they’ll need strong play from Bianco in the net. Maryland has a lot of threats and they average 32.89 shots per game. If Bianco has a game reflective of her best in the postseason, at .300, she has about 10 saves, allowing 20 goals. Northwestern’s offense can’t provide that much offensive support, nor should they have to.

Win the draw control battle: Maryland can, and will, score right off the draw. Taylor Cummings’ play off the draw can be reminiscent to Alyssa Leonard’s–win the draw, take it down field alone, and score. Cummings did it several times in the Terrapins’ first matchup with Northwestern, in which Maryland won the draw control battle 18-5, and she’ll hope to do it again. But, there’s a catch here. See, back in their first matchup, Northwestern hadn’t figured out the draw. In that first game, Shelby Fredericks got one draw control, and Shannon Nesselbush and Lindsay Darrell got 2 each. Now, it’s all Fredericks and Sheila Nesselbush, who have improved immensely in the draw and are winning most of the draw control battles in recent games. With a couple of draw control specialists out there now, a drastic change from the last Maryland matchup, the ‘Cats stand a decent chance in the circle.

High offensive production: One of the reasons the Notre Dame game was so impressive was because so many players scored. Kaleigh Craig and Selena Lasota got five each, Sheila Nesselbush had four, and Christina Esposito and Shelby Fredericks each found net once. The ‘Cats haven’t spread scoring out like that in their tougher games this season, and it’s hurt them when Kara Mupo, Craig, or Lasota is off. If Sheila Nesselbush, Esposito, and Fredericks can continue to contribute goals, and players like Corinne Wessels and Blake McHugh could add one or two, it would be huge for the ‘Cats. Of course, they’ll also need to get Mupo, who hasn’t scored or assisted in the NCAA tournament, to start producing again.

Listen to Tara Wendell and Alex Lederman break down Northwestern’s performance in their first two NCAA Tournament games and preview the matchup with Maryland in this week’s Northwestern lacrosse podcast too.

CLICK HERE to listen or use the player below.

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