By Jack Lido
Canisius, Detroit Mercy, and mother nature were no match were Northwestern last weekend, as they started the season with two wins and a total goal differential of 30 (18-7 and 21-2). While those victories came easy to the Cats, who were ranked No. 11 in the IWLCA preseason poll, the final 15 games of the regular season will include 11 opponents who joined them in the top 25. The first is Colorado (no. 17), who hosted the Cats and beat them in a 11-10 overtime thriller. Here’s what you need to know for this Thursday’s game at Martin Stadium.
The Colorado Buffaloes have gone from a brand-new team in 2014 to a force in the sport and a legitimate national contender. Coach Ann Elliot got her team to 16 wins and its first national tournament last year, but the Buffaloes are looking for more. Colorado is highly motivated to come out of Evanston with a statement road win, something they failed to do last weekend against the no. 5 Florida Gators.
Colorado’s offense runs through the I-17
Miranda Stinson is an offensive threat that must be contained in order for Northwestern to win. She was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week based almost solely on her performance in Colorado’s opener against Michigan, where she scored a school record seven goals. Florida had an answer for Stinson: aggressive double teams. Stinson only found the back of the cage once on five shots on goal against the Gators.
Put Me In Coach!
A key component in Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller’s team is a large roster of talented players who put in quality minutes every game. This strategy will be a huge factor if Northwestern wants to win. The Cats got at least one goal or assist from 22 different players in their first two games. The Buffaloes produced only 8 of these players. Northwestern will use their depth to not only keep Colorado guessing, but also to keep their players warm in a freezing and possibly wet Lanny and Sharon Martin Stadium.
The Northwestern freshmen class- a class not on the field for NU’s devastating overtime loss to Colorado last year- is large in numbers outstanding in play. 10 of the 39 goals scored by the Cats have been off the sticks of 4 different freshmen, including Taylor Pinzone, who won Big Ten Freshman of the Weeek. In addition, freshman Brennan Dwyer, a highly touted recruit from down the road in Winnetka, has 7 draw controls, tied for the team lead. Ann Elliot is going to have her hands full in preparing for a handful of players she’s never seen before.
But it was only against Canisius and Detroit Mercy…
Everything in this article comes with a caveat: Northwestern has played two arguably average mid-major teams in their first two games, while Colorado opened the season against a lower tier Big Ten team (but a Big Ten team nonetheless) in Michigan, and played tough against no. 5 Florida. Just because the Cats have had some easy wins does not mean they should be taking any opponent lightly.