Northwestern Lacrosse vs. University of Maryland in the Semifinal Round of the 2012 NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship
Photo credit: Stephen J. Carrera

By John Beers

Northwestern Women’s Lacrosse’s season came to an end Sunday at the hands of Notre Dame.

Our John Beers will take you on a journey back through the roller-coaster season, identifying the highest of highs and lowest of lows, but first, here are three things to know:

  1. This season was the program’s first 10-loss season since 2002, the first year of the Kelly Amonte Hiller era.
  2. The Wildcats’ season ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament for only the second time under Hiller and the first time since 2004.
  3. Northwestern extended its streak of winning seasons to 13 straight, despite playing the toughest schedule in the country. Of the Wildcats’ 21 opponents this season, 16 were ranked in the top 20, and 12 were ranked in the top 10.

 Northwestern 11, Duke 8

Overall mood: 8/10

The Wildcats needed to start their season off on the right foot and they did just that against the Blue Devils. Northwestern lost to Duke last season, but Selena Lasota scored five goals as the 2016 Wildcats got revenge in their lid-lifter.

Northwestern 4, Louisville 10

Overall Mood: 3/10

After losing back-to-back games to #10 Virginia and #2 Syracuse, Louisville seemed like the perfect bounce back game, but Cardinals goalkeeper Brittany Read had other ideas. Read made 13 saves, Lasota was held goal-less, and Louisville earned their first-ever victor over Northwestern and sent the Wildcats to 1-3 on the season. To make matters worse, junior Shelia Nesselbush—who had nine goals in the Cats’ first four games, suffered a season-ending injury.

If nothing else, the Louisville loss led to one of the season’s most important adjustments, as coach Hiller made sophomore Shelby Fredericks a full-time draw control specialist.

Northwestern 4, Maryland 17

Overall Mood: 2/10

Northwestern came into College Park looking to take down the team that had ended their season the last two years en route to back-to-back national championships. NU’s offense struggled to find a rhythm all game, and they left the Old Line State with their fourth straight loss to the Terps.

Northwestern 17, Notre Dame 12

Overall Mood: 7/10

Fredericks, given sole possession of the draw circle after the Louisville game, recorded 12 draw controls herself, while Notre Dame managed 11 as a team. The Wildcats dominated the first half with a 9-1 run and held on for a potentially season-redefining victory over the fifth-ranked Irish.

Northwestern 11, USC 14

Overall Mood: 4/10

USC, the budding program that the established Wildcats usually feast on, went through stretches of the game were they looked unstoppable on offense. The urgency that Northwestern lacked for much of the game finally showed up in the closing minutes, but it proved too little too late as the Wildcats suffered their seventh loss right after the momentum-boosting victory over Notre Dame.

Northwestern 9, Maryland 12

Overall Mood: 9/10

Fast forward three weeks and we find an unlikely spot for the Wildcats’ high point of the season. Having only gained tournament eligibility with a win against Ohio State in the last game of the regular season, the Wildcats needed a good showing in the Big Ten Tournament to grab some confidence before the NCAA Tournament. After a 20-5 first-round drubbing of Michigan, Northwestern scored a 9-6 win over reigning tournament champions Penn State in the semifinals to advance to the title game. The Wildcats’ performance in that conference final against Maryland—albeit in a loss—was the team’s best of the year.

NU controlled the game for the almost the entire first half, and the game marked only the second time all season Maryland wasn’t leading at halftime.

The Terrapins took control late in the second half, but the Wildcats had proven that their 10-9 record wasn’t indicative of their talent level.

Northwestern 3, Notre Dame 15

Overall Mood: 1/10

After getting their revenge against Louisville by putting 15 goals past the Cardinals’ backup goalie in the NCAA Tournament First Round, Northwestern got out to a slow start against the Irish and trailed 7-3 at the half.. Freshman goalie Mallory Weisse kept her team in the game at times in the first half, but couldn’t repeat that performance after the break as Notre Dame scored early and often. Notre Dame netminder Samantha Giacolone held the Wildcats scoreless in the second half, and the Irish cruised to the quarterfinals.

This season may have ended on a low note, but the team returns about 75% of this season’s scoring in 2017. Here are three things to know heading into the offseason.

  • Weisse started every game in goal as a freshman, putting up a 42% save percentage while giving up about 10.5 goals per game, and should only get better in her sophomore season.
  • Freshman Leighton Yenor ended the season on a hot streak, scoring 14 goals in the last nine games, and should see an expanded role next year.
  • The last time that the Wildcats went out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, they followed it up with an undefeated season and their first of five straight national titles.
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