By John Beers
What has often been seen as a disappointing season ended in disappointing fashion Sunday, as the Northwestern Women’s Lacrosse team bowed out of the NCAA Tournament with a 15-3 loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
After avenging an early season loss to Louisville Friday in the tournament’s first round, Northwestern couldn’t pull off another upset of the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame dominated the game from start to finish, holding Northwestern to its lowest goal scoring output of the season. Ten minutes into the first half the Irish already held a four-goal lead with goals from four different players. Junior Christina Esposito and senior Kaleigh Craig responded with a goal each to cut the Notre Dame lead to two 18 minutes left to play in the first half.
While the quick scoring burst made it seem like the Wildcats might be back in the game, it proved to be the only stretch of consistent offense for Northwestern all game. Notre Dame would push the lead back to four before sophomore Selena Lasota scored the Wildcats’ final goal of the game with just under six minutes to play in the first half.
From then on the game was thoroughly controlled by the Fighting Irish as Northwestern struggled to keep it competitive. While freshman goalie Mallory Weisse kept the Wildcats in the game with six first half saves on 13 shots on net, she couldn’t keep the flood of Notre Dame attackers at bay for the whole game. The levies broke for the Wildcats as the Irish scored eight second-half goals on 14 shots.
Notre Dame super star Cortney Fortunato lived up to her billing, scoring four goals while adding an assist, and putting up 11 shots. The entire Wildcats team only had 16, with 12 of them put on net.
The loss sees Northwestern end its season in the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004. The loss to the Irish was their tenth on the season, marking only the second time a Kelly Amonte Hiller-led team had double-digit losses. The other was Amonte Hiller’s first year as coach in 2003.
The good news for Wildcat fans is that the team will return most its starters next year. While they do lose their leading scorer in Craig—as well as starters Spring Sanders, Lauren Murray and Nancy Dunbar—Lasota and Espito will return and Weisse will have the benefit of experience the second time around. The 2017 Wildcats will also welcome midfielder Shelia Nesselbush, who missed the final 17 games of this season with a lower body injury.