Survive and Advance: Lacrosse Breaks Records Against Richmond, Earns Top-10 Matchup With Towson

Selena Lasota and the Northwestern Wildcats ran rampant in Towson, Maryland on Friday night. The junior attacker scored an NCAA Tournament record nine goals, leading the ‘Cats to a 24-18 victory over first-round opponent Richmond. NU advances to the second round to take on host Towson on Sunday morning at Johnny Unitas Stadium.

Breaking Records

Northwestern and its players broke a littany of single game records and posted several personal bests in the dominant win, including:

  • Most individual goals in an NCAA Tournament game, Selena Lasota, 9
  • Career high for most goals in a game, Selena Lasota, 9
  • Program record for most individual goals in a game, Selena Lasota, 9 (tied with Antoinette Lucas and Kathleen Kochmansky)
  • Third-most points in a game in program history, Selena Lasota, 11
  • Program record for most goals in an NCAA Tournament game, 24
  • Most combined goals in an NCAA Tournament game, 42
  • Career high for most goals in a game, Sheila Nesselbush, 6
  • Career high for most points in a game, Sheila Nesselbush, 7

Here are a few highlights from the rout, via Northwestern Athletics. Just look at Lasota at :21 and :42 in that video and you’ll understand how Richmond had a hard time stopping her.

While it was a memorable night for the ‘Cats, Northwestern moves on with some work to do against Towson.

Scouting Towson

Off the back of the Richmond win, Northwestern now advances to play No. 7 seed and host Towson (16-4, 5-1 Colonial) for a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday. They are a dangerous team that will pose a serious threat to Northwestern on Sunday, so let’s take a deeper look at the Tigers.

We also recommend that you check out WNUR’s lacrosse podcast, Cat’s Cradle, for more insights, as this week Ari Levin and I previewed Towson and evaluated Northwestern’s long-term chances in the tournament (Skip to the 24:00 mark to get past the Penn State recap and preview of Richmond).

The Schedule

Towson has a set of impressive out-of-conference wins, but two of the three came early in the season. The Tigers pulled a 14-13 upset over a Penn State team that was ranked No. 4 at the time all the way back on February 10, which put them in the national spotlight from the jump. They followed that up with a March 21 win over Florida in Gainesville by a score of 14-11. Florida was ranked No. 6 at the time and earned the No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament as well — that was easily the most impressive result of the season for Towson. However, since March, Towson’s only top 25 victory is over No. 25 Johns Hopkins in a cross-state rivalry.

Their conference schedule doesn’t give us a whole lot of information about Towson. They ran through the seven-team Colonial with a 5-1 record, only dropping a game to James Madison, the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, whom they also lost to in the conference tournament final.

Towson’s losses are nothing to be ashamed of. As mentioned, the Tigers dropped two games to James Madison. They were one of undefeated Stony Brook’s 19 consecutive victories, and they lost to Loyola Maryland in triple overtime (Loyola ended up with the No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament).

Ultimately, Towson appears to be strikingly similar to Northwestern from a wins and losses perspective. They’ve beaten all the teams they were supposed to beat, they lost a couple games to very good teams, and they have results that went both ways against similar-caliber teams. Judging by the season’s results, this one should be a toss-up.

The Players

In attack, Towson boasts three 40-goal scorers (Natalie Sulmonte, Emily Gillingham, and Carly Tellekamp) and five 40-point scorers (those three plus Kaitlyn Montalbano and Kaitlin Thornton), making them one of the most balanced offensive teams NU has faced all year. Beyond that, the Tigers have Gabby Cha coming off the bench with 27 goals of her own, which would make her the fourth-leading goalscorer on Northwestern, only two goals back of Danita Stroup. For a Northwestern defense that has given up 59 goals in its past three games, it will be a tall task to shut down the dynamic Tiger attack.

That said, Towson may even have more talent on defense. The Tigers have three of the top 20 players in the country in caused turnovers per game in Olivia Conti (2.55), Sami Chenoweth (2.15), and Tianna Wallpher (2.00). Those three defenders contribute to the aggressive brand of defense Towson plays under coach Sonia LaMonica. It works, too — goalkeeper Kiley Keating posts the 4th-best goals against average in the country (8.71).

The Team

One part of the game that sticks out for this Towson squad is the aggressive style of defense that they use to shut down opponents. Towson fouls more than all but 6 teams in the NCAA (26.7 per game), but the result is that the Tigers are 9th in the country in caused turnovers per game (11.3) and fifth in scoring defense (8.8). Northwestern will likely be afforded plenty of chances from the 8-meter arc, so the ‘Cats need to convert free position shots and not fold under the Towson pressure. Northwestern has stuggled with turnovers this season, so the focus will be on not giving the ball away cheaply, since Towson already pushes the issue so much in that category.

The place that Northwestern looks to have the biggest advantage over Towson is in the center circle. The Tigers rank 90th in the NCAA in draw controls per game, while Northwestern sits in the top five in the country, with an advantage of +4.97 draw controls per game over Towson. Northwestern will undoubtedly have more opportunities than Towson — the question comes down to how often can they convert against the stingy Tigers backline.

Moving Forward

It seems as though Towson and Northwestern are two well-matched programs that will provide a fun, competitive matchup on the field on Sunday morning.

You can watch the game at this link starting at 10:45am CT. If Northwestern advances to the quarterfinals, WNUR Sports will provide coverage of the rest of NU’s tournament run.

For updates, follow @WNURSports on Twitter and check out Cat’s Cradle, WNUR Sports’ lacrosse podcast, which will run through the end of the season as well.

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