For the 12th consecutive year, Northwestern women’s lacrosse finds themselves in the NCAA Tournament, and for the 3rd consecutive year, they’ll face the Louisville Cardinals.
The ‘Cats and Cards will do battle tonight at 6 PM CT in South Bend, IN. The winner of the matchup will take on Notre Dame at 1 PM on Sunday in the Second Round.
The two teams have already met once this year, with Louisville claiming a 10-4 win over the Wildcats on March 3rd, the first ever win in the series for the Cardinals. Louisville was led on offense by Julia Wood and Cortney Daley, who each scored 3 times. Between the pipes, Louisville’s Brittany Read made 13 saves to stymie the usually dangerous Northwestern offense. Shelby Fredericks and the now injured Sheila Nesselbush each scored twice for NU.
The most surprising stat however, was the fact that Louisville held Northwestern without an assist, the only time that has happened to the Wildcats this season.
While Northwestern struggled to score on that day, the Wildcats have been filling it up recently, averaging 15.5 goals a game in their last 6 outings. Louisville was able to contain the Wildcats in March, but it should be a much different story tonight, especially if the Wildcats can pass the ball around like they were unable to in March.
Mallory Weisse, Northwestern’s freshman goalie, who made 10 saves against the Cardinals when the two teams met earlier this season, has been a key cog in Northwestern’s run, including making 10 saves against Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. If Northwestern is to beat Louisville, Weisse will probably need to make a few more big saves to quiet Louisville’s dangerous attack.
There is a question between the pipes on the other end. Read, who made 13 saves against the Wildcats in March, tore her ACL and is out for the remainder of the year. In her place is Kelly Gielner, a transfer from UMBC that has made just 3 starts this year, amassing a .352 save percentage. The Wildcats must attack Gielner early and often, and force the backup goalkeeper into making tough stops.
As it does in seemingly every game the Wildcats play, the draw control will play a big role in determining the outcome tonight. Louisville features Kaylin Morisette in the draw control circle, who is second in NCAA History in draw controls won. If Shelby Fredericks can successfully control the circle, limiting Morisette, it would give Northwestern added possessions, putting the ‘Cats could be in line for an impressive first round win. However, if Fredericks and her teammates struggle to win in the circle, Northwestern will feel like they’re playing from behind all evening, which is never a fun place to be.
In each of the last two seasons, Northwestern has knocked Louisville out of the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats won 11-8 in 2014, and 10-7 last season. Both of those matches came in Evanston. Now, the tables have turned, and the two sides will face off on a neutral field in South Bend.
WNUR Sports will have full coverage of the Wildcats this weekend in South Bend. Austin Miller and Caleigh Ryan will have the call of the first round matchup Friday night, with the pregame show set for 5:45, before first draw at 6. The game will be broadcast over the air on 89.3 FM in the Evanston-Chicago area, and around the world online at WNURSports.com. As well, you can follow the action Friday night on our Twitter page, @WNURSports.