By Ari Levin
The theme for Northwestern lacrosse this season has been an inability to beat the nation’s elite teams. This year, the Wildcats have had four chances against top-six teams. They’re now 0-4 in those games. They’re 9-0 against everyone else.
On Thursday, the fifth-ranked Wildcats dropped another top opportunity against No. 2 Maryland by a score of 17-13. The Terps move to 15-0 on the season with the win, but the Wildcats gave this undefeated UMD club all they could handle.
After a cold and windy start to the game, the skies opened at the start of the stand half. A lightning strike with 12:28 on the clock forced a delay with the game tied at 12. With no end in sight to the storm, both teams moved inside to Wilson Field inside the Ryan Fieldhouse in order to complete the game.
Northwestern took an early lead after a few scoreless minutes with both teams saving a pair of shots. The Wildcats went up 3-0 and then 4-1 10 minutes in to the game. Maryland came back, as expected, and tied the game with the last three goals before halftime, knotting the score at seven apiece.
After what would be a 47-minute delay, Maryland came out with the advantage. The Terps won each of the first three draw controls and scored the first three goals after the stoppage. In the final 12 minutes, Maryland finished on a 5-1 run to seal the victory.
Mallory Weisse drew a surprise start in the cage, her first of the year, and lived up to the challenge. She recorded 13 saves against one of the nation’s top offenses and was fantastic for Northwestern in the early stages. Selena Lasota scored a game-high six goals for the ‘Cats.
Consistently over the last two years, Northwestern has been able to beat any team outside the top five, as illustrated by the recent win over No. 9 Penn. But the Wildcats have been unable to pull off a signature win and assert themselves as an elite program.
This game was perhaps the closest they’ve been outside of an overtime loss to No. 3 Syracuse in February. With different weather or better luck on bounces (Maryland held a 16-9 advantage on ground balls), it’s easy to imagine the Wildcats winning this game.
Looking ahead, this is the kind of game Northwestern will need to win in order to reach the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. As of now, the Wildcats appear on track to enter as a No. 5 or No. 6 overall seed. They’ll likely have familiarity on their side in that one given the gauntlet of a schedule the Wildcats have played this season, but they’ll have to finally get over the hump if they want to make their NCAA Tournament stay a long one.