Stick Check: A look at each Big Ten women's lacrosse team
The inaugural season of Big Ten Lacrosse got underway last week, and it was filled with excitement. Let’s take a look how the six women’s teams fared during this opening week of Big Ten action.
Dominance in all aspects of the game in Thursday’s 16-5 win at No. 4 Northwestern only solidified the Terrapins’ spot as the team to beat in women’s lacrosse. Over a three minute and six second span in the final seven minutes of the first half, the top-ranked Terps scored five goals to turn a 3-2 edge into an 8-2 advantage. Maryland would add one more goal before the break and continue the run into the second half that ended after the Terps had rattled off nine consecutive scores.
Freshman Megan Whittle had five goals on the day and Tewaaraton Award winner junior Taylor Cummings owned the circle. She won 13-of-23 draws including the game’s first that led to her scoring the initial goal 12 seconds into play. Maryland’s defense held the Wildcats to a season-low five goals thanks to six saves from redshirt senior Alex Fitzpatrick, but the dominance on the draw is what kept Northwestern from even having possession to attack.
It was widely thought that the Big Ten opener was Maryland’s biggest hurdle between it and a perfect regular season. Now the question is can anyone take down the Terps? Four ranked opponents remain on the schedule before the Big Ten Tournament and Ohio State and Penn State score with the best teams in the nation. However, no team has the combination of elite draw control play, balanced explosive attack and a veteran defense to knock off Maryland. With Northwestern dispatched and in the rear view, the Terrapins should be unbeaten on the way to Rutgers and the first ever Big Ten Tournament.
Northwestern bounces back
The Wildcats suffered one of the worst home losses of the Kelly Amonte-Hiller era on Thursday and yet the week should be deemed a success for Northwestern. No. 1 Maryland was one of three top ten opponents that traveled to Lakeside Field last week, and Northwestern defeated then-No. 5 Syracuse and No. 10 Louisville. The Wildcats scoring is down from previous years and they are still searching for someone to emerge in the circle as a draw specialist. However, they found a way to win against two solid opponents, book-ending the deflating Maryland loss.
Despite the discouraging result against the Terrapins, there is reason to be hopeful that Northwestern can still contend for the inaugural Big Ten Title. In 2013, the Wildcats suffered a 22-4 loss to Florida on the road, only to come back in the American Lacrosse Conference title game to defeat the Gators 8-3. More scoring threats will need to emerge outside of senior Kara Mupo and freshman Selena Lasota, but the Wildcats showed they are still one of the teams you can expect to be playing on championship weekend in May.
Penn State comeback against Stanford
After three one-goal losses to the only ranked opponents on their schedule, the Nittany Lions came up with a vital win against No. 9 Stanford last Tuesday. Down 12-7 with under 19 minutes to play, Penn State rattled off a 10-3 run that would hand the Cardinal its first loss of the season. Senior Tatum Coffey and freshman Katie O’Donnell both contributed two goals during the run and the Nittany Lions picked up a win that will be crucial in their hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament if they can’t win the Big Ten Tournament.
Penn State followed the win over Stanford with a convincing effort at Rutgers and moved up to No. 12 in the IWLCA poll to sit as the third Big Ten team ranked in the Top 15.
Performances of the Weekend
Taylor Cummings (MD) – 2g, 3a, 13 DC & CT at NU
Tatum Coffey (PSU) – 3g, 2a at Rutgers
Katie Chase (OSU) – 7g vs. Michigan & Hofstra
Megan Whittle (MD) – 5g at NU
Jackie Cifarelli (OSU) – 1g, 8a vs. Michigan & Hofstra
Selena Lasota (NU) – 6g, 1a vs. Maryland & Louisville
Live this week on BTN/BTN2GO
Lehigh at Rutgers – Tuesday at 7:00 ET
No. 6 Northwestern at Michigan – Thursday at 7:00 ET
No. 18 Ohio State at No. 12 Penn State – Saturday at 6:00 ET