The weather in Evanston is finally starting to warm up, but that’s old news to Northwestern women’s lacrosse. They’ve been hot for weeks. The Wildcats haven’t lost a game since March 6, and there’s no slowing them down now.
The #3 Northwestern Wildcats (12-2, 4-0 B1G) beat the #15 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (10-3, 2-2 B1G) 21-13 Thursday, April 7, and the San Diego State Aztecs (5-7 overall) 20-8 on Sunday, April 10, to extend their eight game win streak.
Game 1: #15 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The Lake Show was in prime shape for prime time as the ranked conference matchup aired on the B1G Network at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday. Rutgers gave the ’Cats all they could handle as the Scarlet Knights found themselves within one point halfway through the third quarter, but Northwestern scored eight of the final nine points to put it away.
The star of the show was, per usual, the nation’s third leading scorer: graduate attacker Lauren Gilbert. In the two games this week, she combined for 12 goals, including a career high of eight against Rutgers. She was unstoppable against the Knights, even as she left the game briefly in the first half after taking a hard shot to the ribs. That seemed to be the only time Rutgers could stop her; she scored three more second-half goals.
Graduate midfielder Jill Girardi decided she couldn’t let Gilbert have all the fun. Her 19 draw controls were the second-most in a game in school history, and she had a hat trick (plus one) of her own. Ten total Wildcats recorded a goal in the game; five of those ’Cats are underclassmen including sophomore midfielder Kendall Halpern’s first career goal. Her behind-the-back shot was pure Northwestern lacrosse: quick, smooth and pretty as hell.
Game 2: San Diego State Aztecs
In their first lakeside game since the Duke game last year, the Wildcats dominated from start to finish. Northwestern jumped out to a 16-6 halftime lead as the lacrosse game looked something like the Fourth of July – that is to say, fireworks.
Gilbert and Girardi both secured hat tricks before the half, and three more Wildcats scored two goals a piece. Twelve Wildcats would score on the Aztecs in total, and freshman midfielder Emerson Bohlig was the next ’Cat to score her first career goal. Northwestern was simply unstoppable all over the field, plain and simple.
After this week’s performances, the Wildcats raked in B1G accolades with Sammy White voted Freshman of the Week, Girardi voted Co-Midfielder of the Week and Gilbert voted Offensive Player of the Week. Gilbert tacked on National Player of the Week honors during the Wildcats’ quest to remain undefeated in conference play.
The ’Cats have only lost two games this season, falling to undefeated #1 North Carolina (13-0, ACC) and reigning champs #2 Boston College (13-1, ACC). Northwestern was only able to muster nine goals against each of these powerhouses, a season-low in points.
The difference between the top two teams and #3 Northwestern? UNC and BC are top 10 in both scoring offense and defense, but the ’Cats can only claim a top five offense, coming in tied for 49th in defense. If the Wildcats want to separate themselves from the rest of the pack, their defense has to go from good to great. Finding their offensive footing in those games wouldn’t be such a bad thing either; nine points is pretty abysmal.
Northwestern will put its undefeated home record on the line Saturday, April 16, in its senior day game vs #25 Johns Hopkins (8-6, 0-3 B1G) before closing out the season at Maryland on April 23. After that, it’s on to the B1G tournament May 6-8.
If the past month is any indication of things to come, the ’Cats have plenty of gas in the tank for both the B1G tournament and beyond.