Lacrosse Team Topples Terrapins to Take Big Ten Tournament Title

It seems like there was never a doubt. It seems like #1 Northwestern women’s lacrosse (17-1, 6-0 B1G) simply did what they always do. Get some Izzy Scane and Erin Coykendall action, watch Samantha Smith and Maddie Taylor control the draw, and let Kendall Halpern, Sammy White, and Molly Laliberty keep any offensive attacks from causing damage.

However, the actual game is a lot different than the score makes it appear. Despite the scoreline sitting at 14-9, marking the team’s second consecutive victory over #9 Maryland (14-6, 4-2 B1G), the game was in real doubt until well into the second half. In fact, the Wildcats trailed for nearly eight minutes and thirty seconds in the first half, and were tied for nine minutes as well. 

Things seemed to be at their bleakest with just over three minutes to play in the opening half. Maryland’s Kate Stiles had just scored her first goal of the game, putting the Terrapins up 6-5. Northwestern’s early 2-0 lead appeared like it had been truly wasted.

With just over 90 seconds left in the first half, Maddie Taylor went solo to score the tying goal. At this point in the game, it was tied at 6 and the title seemed like anyone’s to grab.

There were 31 minutes remaining in the game after that Taylor goal. 

Maryland scored three goals in that span.

Northwestern scored eight.

The linchpin to the comeback was, of course, the supernova moonlighting as a lacrosse player known as Izzy Scane. A little over five minutes after scoring her second goal of the day on a pass from Coykendall, Scane earned herself a hat trick with just 23 seconds left in the opening half.

Coykendall was triple-teamed in the center of the arc, but was able to use the eyes in the back of her head (or side, she’s definitely got more than two based on her passing skills) to find an open Scane. All Scane needed was a four-step windup to score her 80th goal of the year and give the Wildcats the lead.

In the two teams’ previous clash, the key quarter was the third quarter. It started knotted at 4, and ended 9-5 in favor of the ‘Cats behind stifling defense and a Hailey Rhatigan eruption. Maybe lightning does strike twice – assuming, of course, Rhatigan’s name is replaced with Coykendall’s.

Smith earned the opening draw of the second half, and after a foul by Maryland’s Marge Donovan just over a minute in, Coykendall went to the free position spot. Much like a great pitcher, she went high and outside, and much like a great picture, her opponent could do nothing but flail helplessly at the ball speeding past. The goal from Coykendall pushed the lead to 8-6 for the Wildcats.

Molly Laliberty also had her fingerprints (and stick prints) all over the domination of the third quarter. Over the seven minutes following Coykendall’s goal, Maryland had four scoring opportunities. Two of them ended in turnovers. The other two? With the ball safely in Laliberty’s stick.

After over seven scoreless minutes, Coykendall got a little bored. She calmly went back to the free position spot just seconds after picking up a ground ball off a miss from Dylan Amonte. This time Coykendall went high and inside, pushing the lead to three. 

Maryland responded quickly, and after the fourth foul by Northwestern on a single shot clock, Kori Edmondson was able to convert a free position goal to chip into the deficit. It was the only free position Maryland would convert successfully in the entire game.

Obviously, Northwestern couldn’t let the assault on their lead stand. Taylor responded quickly by fighting through the teeth of the defense for her second unassisted goal of the contest. After a rare turnover from Scane, however, Maryland brought Northwestern back within striking distance with a nice goal from Chrissy Thomas.

That lead would be widened once again before the end of the quarter, though. Hailey Rhatigan, first of her name and ruler of the second half, scored her first goal of the match (and 51st of the year) with just 23 seconds remaining. The goal itself was an improbable feat, with Rhatigan spinning past one defender, deking another, and whipping the ball into the goal while nearly parallel to the ground.

The fourth quarter was just window dressing. Smith opened the fourth frame by whipping a sidearm in less than 90 seconds in, and Rhatigan thought that scoring was so nice, she’d do it twice. Her second goal of the day, with 12:57 to go in the game, made the score 13-8, an offensive output equal to Northwestern’s last outing against Maryland.

Fortunately for the viewers, neither team was done yet. There were 11 more shots over the final 12 or so minutes, and while six were saved and three more went wide, two did manage to find the goal. One of them was Scane’s 81st of the year, extending her lead over James Madison’s Isabella Peterson by three goals. That’s with the fact that Scane has appeared in three fewer games than Peterson.

So many players deserve credit for the 14-9 victory and second consecutive Big Ten tournament crown. Scane was her traditional, spectacular, superstar self, finishing with four goals and two assists, while Coykendall had a pair of goals along with a trifecta of assists. Smith and Taylor combined for 10 draw controls, Northwestern won the ground ball battle 20-10, and the Wildcats went 4-of-10 from the free position spot, an excellent mark when compared with the putrid 1-of-5 put up by the Terrapins.

Molly Laliberty also once again proved that she must own quite a bit of real estate in the Chesapeake Bay area. She saved 11 of the 20 shots that came at her for a save percentage of 55%, her sixth highest mark of the season. One of the only performances that bettered this was against Maryland a little over two weeks ago, when she saved 9 of 15 shots and kept the Wildcats alive in a scoreless second quarter.

For the second straight game, Northwestern proved that they can handle Maryland when the chips are down. Considering the Terrapins have been a borderline top-10 team all year, that should be a scary sight for the rest of the country. If Northwestern can keep playing like this, they should bring home the program’s eighth national title later this month.