Northwestern wasn't able to secure a top-10 win on Saturday, as a small second-half lead against Syracuse collapsed hard. Photo by Yurui Wu / North By Northwestern

“This is just brutal!”

One Syracuse fan’s frustration was obvious with 20 minutes to go in the game. Northwestern had outscored Syracuse 6-1 in the past 15 minutes and had all the momentum to hand the Orange another loss after the two teams last faced each other in the NCAA quarterfinal in May 2019. The ‘Cats won 18-14 during that home game, putting an end to Syracuse’s season.

But history didn’t repeat itself on Saturday night in Ryan Fieldhouse, where No. 6 Northwestern (3-2) faltered after a comeback attempt and lost to No. 7 Syracuse (4-1) 16-11. This was the second weekend in a row in which the ‘Cats were on the losing side of a top-10 showdown, both times to teams (Syracuse on Saturday, Notre Dame last Friday) that they defeated en route to their final four appearance last spring.

Unlike any of the previous four games this season, Northwestern’s offense struggled to find its rhythm early on. Liza Elder scored the first point for Northwestern 10 minutes into the game, bringing the score to 1-1. It was the Orange’s offense that first showed up, scoring four goals in a role to build a 6-2 advantage.

After the teams each scored another goal, Lindsey McKone took over the game briefly for the Wildcats. In a three minute stretch at the end of the first half, the senior made two assists and scored twice herself, leading the team to a 5-0 run. The teams headed back to the locker rooms with Northwestern up 8-7.

The Orange soon scored to tie the game after the intermission. In the next 10 minutes, although neither team scored, players were flying up and down the field and both goalies made impressive saves. The ‘Cats then scored twice on free positions, bringing the score to 10-8.

That was when everything on the Northwestern side stopped working. Syracuse finished the game with a 8-1 run and handed Northwestern another late-game stumble. Attacker Emily Hawryschuk scored five of those eight goals in the last 18 minutes, and finished with a game-high six goals. Her teammate Meaghan Tyrrell contributed five to the Orange as well. On the Northwestern side, McKone, Laura Gilbert, Elle Hansen and Taylor Pinzone each scored two.

After two hard, familiar losses against seventh-ranked teams at home in back-to-back weekend, Northwestern slumped to that No. 7 rank in the latest Inside Lacrosse poll. Next Sunday, head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller’s squad will host Stanford at home. In the following week, they will challenge the currently-undefeated No. 1 North Carolina in Ryan Fieldhouse, before starting league play against Penn State.