On a rainy Thursday afternoon, #5 Northwestern (12-4, 5-1 B1G) traveled to Columbus, OH to take on unranked Ohio State (9-8, 1-5 B1G). What was supposed to be a relatively easy win for the Wildcats – especially following two top-ten wins last week – turned out to be a more of fight than expected in a 17-12 win.
The Wildcats started the game with a bang, scoring within the first 10 seconds. However, the game went back and forth as the Buckeyes continuously took advantage of their offensive opportunities – or, should I say, Northwestern’s attempt at a man-to-man defense. The Buckeyes set up isolation after isolation to keep them in the game, sending some of their strongest offensive players – Liza Hernandez, Baley Parrott and Sophie Baez included – driving in with no Wildcat defenders sliding for help. Within the first 10 minutes, the Buckeyes had scored five goals against the Wildcats; last year, they scored only six goals the whole game.
On the other half of the field, Northwestern’s offense relied more on feeds to the middle, setting attackers up to shoot right on top of the net. Similar to the Wildcats’ defense, the Buckeyes gave up relatively easy goals at first. With about 13 minutes left, Northwestern went on a 3-0 run, and senior Selena Lasota secured a hat trick to put the Wildcats up by two.
Junior goalie Jill Rizzo stepped up for Ohio State despite facing tough shots, and by the end of the first half she totaled six saves. The Wildcats finished the half up by three despite a yellow card from Lasota putting them man-down for the last minute.
In the second half, the situations flipped as an aggressive Ohio State defense got three yellow cards within the first ten minutes, at one point putting the Wildcats up two women. Despite not scoring during any of the man-up situations, Lasota ripped a free position from the eight to boost Northwestern’s lead to three. The sloppiness of this game continued to show as Northwestern got their second yellow card of the game. The Buckeyes took advantage of the card this time and cut the Wildcats’ lead to two. Then, less than two minutes later, the Wildcats got yet another yellow card, tying the Buckeyes at three yellow cards.
Lasota scored her fifth goal to put the Wildcats up 11-8, showcasing once again her power shooting from the outside -- even off of her non-dominant hand. Senior goalie Mallory Weiss helped the Northwestern defense shut down Ohio State’s standout Hernandez with some outstanding saves. Frustration clearly built in this game as the Buckeyes received yet another yellow card. With just under 10 minutes left, Parrott, arguably the Buckeyes’ best offensive player, also got a yellow card, putting Ohio State in a tough position as the half neared the end.
With eight minutes left in the half, Lasota and Scane had combined for the same number of goals as the entire Ohio State team (9). This past week, both of them received B1G Ten accolades as Offensive (Lasota) Player and Freshman (Scane) of the Week, along with Weiss who received Defensive Player of the Week.
The Wildcats led by five with five minutes remaining, a more comfortable lead than what they had seen so far in Columbus. Sophomore Lauren Gilbert scored late in the game, using her speed to sink two free positions back to back. As the half finished, the Buckeyes saw flashes of great offensive work, but Northwestern maintained their lead to finish the game 17-12.
As the Wildcats say goodbye to their regular season, they look to advance far into both the B1G Ten and NCAA tournaments this postseason.