Staff Predictions: NCAA Lax Tourney

No. 2 Northwestern lacrosse will look to secure its eighth national championship in program history this weekend in Towson, Maryland. First, they’ll take on No. 3 Syracuse in a Friday final four match-up. If they come out on top, they’ll advance to the title game Sunday and face the winner of No. 1 North Carolina vs No. 4 Boston College. All in all, it should be an exciting weekend for the ‘Cats. Here are our staff’s predictions for what might unfold: 

Jacob Brown (@cubsfan57): 

Northwestern 16, Syracuse 14

Syracuse provides the greatest resistance that Northwestern has seen all season. The ‘Cats come out sluggish and the Orange lead by four at the half. Madison Doucette steps up in the second half, and Izzy Scane explodes for four goals and two assists in the first 10 minutes of the period. It’s tied late, but two Lauren Gilbert goals in the final minute seal it as Purple beats Orange.

UNC 16, Northwestern 12

A magical season comes to an end, and the Tar Heels just have too much talent for the ‘Cats to overcome. 

Kevin Sweeney (@CBB_Central):

Northwestern 19, Syracuse 14

The Orange have bested Northwestern in the programs’ last two meetings, but this year’s Wildcat bunch is different. Jill Girardi continues her strong recent play in the draw control circle to help Northwestern dominate the possession battle in this one, and the ‘Cats have too much firepower offensively to beat them when they control possession. Izzy Scane scores her 100th goal of the season and the ‘Cats move one step closer to their eighth national championship. 

Northwestern 17, UNC 15

This is the game the entire lacrosse world has wanted to see all season — Northwestern’s historic offense against North Carolina’s vaunted defense. And though the old adage is that defense wins championships, great offense beats great defense more times than not. Northwestern’s offense is great, and the ‘Cats will find a way to score consistently against the Tar Heels. How? It starts with Erin Coykendall’s ability to distribute from behind the cage and keep the ball moving against a defense as well-schooled as UNC’s. Coykendall, perhaps the most underrated player in the nation, will have a huge hand in NU’s success if the ‘Cats come home from Maryland with a trophy. 

Jack Lido (@JackLido):

Northwestern 20, Syracuse 17

Northwestern has the hottest offense in the field, and while Syracuse has played well, they won’t be able to keep up with the Wildcats. Asa Goldstock, Syracuse’s goalkeeper, can absolutely stand on her head in big spots. However, she has been a bit inconsistent this year, Wildcat fans can expect a good scoring day on Friday even if Goldstock and the Orange defense have a strong day. Izzy Scane, Lauren Gilbert and Erin Coykendall are so good at manufacturing shots and pressuring the defense that they can only be stopped for so long. The Northwestern offense is just built differently than any other Final Four team of the last decade. The offense has propelled Northwestern this far, and it will keep rolling.

UNC 17, Northwestern 16

Unfortunately, the road ends just a little short for Northwestern. North Carolina is a team of destiny, and they have been — indirectly — preparing for NU all year. Look at all their games — the Tar Heels have consistently shut down their opponents’ number one scorers (and they don’t do a bad job on numbers two, three, four, etc.) No team has a combination of the best goalkeeper in the game (Taylor Moreno) and one of the four best offensive weapons in the game (Jamie Ortega). Northwestern has peaked in an amazing spot, but UNC has them beat when it comes to veteran leadership. Don’t worry Wildcat fans, Northwestern will be back, and another year of Izzy Scane and Erin Coykendall will make the offense hum. This Sunday, the Wildcats will begin preparations for a 2022 NCAA National Championship.

Ally Navarrete (@ally_nav12): 

Northwestern 20, Syracuse 13

The ‘Cats come in confident, led by Lauren Gilbert and Izzy Scane on offense, and successfully contain the talented Orange squad. And Jill Giardi gets it done in the circle to really secure the Northwestern victory. While ‘Cuse undoubtedly puts up a fight, the persistent goal-scoring from Northwestern is just too much for the Orange to handle. Kelly Amonte Hiller and the ‘Cats are headed to the final game yet again. 

Northwestern 16, UNC 15

Carolina might be No. 1, but that doesn’t faze the star-studded Wildcats. It’ll be a close, back-and-forth game, something the ‘Cats aren’t used to — but Scane will lead the charge on offense, with Gilbert, Erin Coykendall, and perhaps some fire from Sammy Mueller to back her up. The ‘Cats phenomenal offense will ultimately help them edge out the tough Tar Heel defense to come out on top by a hair. Eighth national championship = secured. 

Andrew Neville (@AndrewNeville20): 

Northwestern 17, Syracuse 12

Syracuse is known for its stellar defense, but the Northwestern attack is an entirely different animal. The Orange will hold the ‘Cats below their season average of 20.6 goals a game, but Izzy Scane and company will find ways to put the ball in the goal and head to the national championship.

Northwestern 15, UNC 14

This matchup has been circled since very early in the season, and it will live up to the hype. Neither team will lead by more than two goals all game, and Izzy Scane will score a winner with 35 seconds left and Madison Doucette will make a save at the buzzer to send the ‘Cats back to Evanston with some hardware.

John Volk (@jk_volk)

Northwestern 20, Syracuse 14

Izzy Scane has failed to score in just two games during her time at Northwestern. First in the second game of her career, a 21-15 beatdown of Dartmouth in 2019, and second against Syracuse last year, a 16-11 loss to the Orange. Since that loss, Scane has put together a case to be named the greatest player in school history. She has scored in 17-straight games, with eight or more goals in seven of those games and a program-record 10 goals in a single game earlier this year. Scane has scored 6.27 goals per game this season, on pace to shatter the NCAA single-season record of 5.71 goals per game.

In short, Syracuse won’t hold Scane scoreless this time. With the blanket extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA after last season’s cancelation, the rosters look mostly the same as they did when these teams faced off in 2020. However, Northwestern added a now four-time All-American in Sammy Mueller while Syracuse has lost two of its best attackers to torn ACLs this season — Megan Carney, who led the team in goals when she went down in the Orange’s 13th game, and Emily Hawryschuk, the lead scorer in last year’s matchup who’s year ended in the season opener. A Northwestern offense that has shot expectations into the sun should cruise past a battered Syracuse in the Final Four.

Northwestern 16, UNC 14

North Carolina has been the top-ranked team all season for a reason: defense. The Tar Heels tout the nation’s top scoring defense, allowing just 6.35 goals per game, and a win over Boston College in the semifinals will set up a classic matchup between the best scoring offense and the best scoring defense in the National Championship. The saying says defense wins championships, but UNC has looked beatable through its first two games of the NCAA Tournament, barely squeaking by James Madison 14-9 and Stony Brook 14-11. The Tar Heels’ defense holds Northwestern to its lowest scoring output of the season, but it’s not enough as the Wildcats lift their eighth national championship to cap off an undefeated season.

Matthew Coronado:

Northwestern 22, Syracuse 14

Northwestern outranks Syracuse in draw control percentage, goals per game and shots per game. Those factors are what I think will determine the winner of this game. If the Orange can’t win draw controls, it will be a replay of the game against Duke. Izzy Scane of course is gonna show up, but look for Lauren Gilbert to make her mark on the tournament in this semifinal with her dazzling speed and crafty elusiveness. 

Northwestern 17, UNC 16

This would be Northwestern’s greatest test if they do get this far and the Tar Heels don’t lose against Boston College. Again, Northwestern has the advantage in draw controls with their midfielders Jill Girardi and Lindsey McKone. This game will be closer than Syracuse because of the goalie play from UNC, who ranks No. 1 in the nation in saves. It will be a grittier game than the semifinal, but I still see the Wildcats pulling out the victory.

Ryan Choe (@RyanChoe_2602):

Northwestern 15, Syracuse 13

Friday afternoon’s contest is must-watch TV as the ‘Cats and ‘Cuse have quite a bit of history. The programs have met 20 times, with Northwestern enjoying victory in 14 of those contests. Although the ‘Cats have yet to lose to the Orange in the postseason, previous games won’t make an impact when the whistle blows. The Syracuse team is the toughest opponent Northwestern has faced thus far and will pit an unstoppable force (Northwestern’s surging offense) against an immovable object (Syracuse’s stout defense). Additionally, Syracuse boasts a legit offense and impressive season, with its only losses to North Carolina and a one-goal contest to Boston College, making the program a complete all-around foe. With all this said, the ‘Cats will find a way to squeak out with a victory in this surefire college lacrosse classic.

My player to watch: Erin Coykendall. Much of the attention will be on standout attackers junior Izzy Scane and senior Lauren Gilbert (and deservedly so). But with Syracuse intent on minimizing the effect of these players, Coykendall’s impact as the team’s leading table-setter (top-10 nationally in assists) will be crucial. If Coykendall has a big day creating for her teammates, it will pay huge dividends.

Brea Lassek (@BreaLassek): 

Northwestern 18, Syracuse 14

I’m going to be honest– I thought field hockey and lacrosse were the same sport until a few months ago. What I do know, though, is that Izzy Scane will have another monster performance, guiding the ‘Cats to a Final Four victory with six goals. #ScaneTrain #CL8IM #LAXSchool

Northwestern 14, UNC 13

The ‘Cats outlast the Tar Heels in the most anticipated matchup of the year. Northwestern’s offense has made headlines all year, but Madison Doucette will shine in the national championship, tallying a season-high 13 saves, to lead the program to their eighth national title.

Eli Berk (@eli_berk): 

‘Cats by a billion.