Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Dominant first half propels No. 2 seed Northwestern to Big Ten Championship victory

When Maryland and Northwestern faced off on April 11, Maryland won 17-13 in a back and forth battle forced to move inside due to the weather.

However, today was a different story at historic Homewood Field as Northwestern defeated Maryland 16-11 powered by a dominant first half. Exacting revenge on the Terps, Northwestern outscored Maryland 10-4 in the first half, led by the dynamic attack trio of Selena Lasota, Lauren Gilbert and Izzy Scane who combined for 11 of 16 goals.

“[Northwestern] is a really quick team, I think we had a few lapses that they capitalized on,” junior defender Lizzie Colson said. “We dug ourselves into an early hole and then we just couldn’t get our footing under us to get out,” head coach Cathy Reese said.

It was a similar script to the last time both teams faced off early on, with Maryland conceding the opening goal and then being forced to overcome an early deficit. Northwestern’s ball movement was outstanding, forcing the Terps defense to slide quickly and make quick decisions. Senior goaltender Mallory Weisse was also phenomenal for the Wildcats with 10 saves, including several timely ones early on.

“[Northwestern] is a great defense, they’re really athletic,” junior attacker Brindi Griffin said. “In goal Mallory was great, she’s an awesome goalie.”

For the sixth consecutive game, Maryland allowed the opening goal, this time just 22 seconds in. Scane spun around her defender using an inside roll dodge and created space firing the bounce shot into the top of the net.

“It’s just an energy swing, when you give up a goal first that’s a momentum swing for the other team,” Reese said.

Less than three minutes later, Skane continued her scorching start once again dodging around her defender and firing the lefty shot into the back of the net. Maryland would bounce back however, attacker Caroline Steele displaying her persistence fired a rebound shot into the back of the net after Weisse saved the initial attempt.

Northwestern the second highest scoring offense in the nation would find its rhythm once again, with consecutive goals by attackers Liza Elder and Lindsey McKone. McKone her first of seven points on the day showcased her speed; wrapping around the cage and firing the high shot past Megan Taylor.

Continuing her strong play of late, midfielder Erica Evans cut behind the Wildcat defense catching a pass from attacker Catie May in stride for the easy finish. Proving resilient once again, Maryland scored two of the next three goals cutting the Wildcat lead to 5-4 with 10:48 remaining on a low-to-high submarine shot on a free position from Steele.

Just when it seemed like Maryland was beginning to build momentum, Northwestern found its stride once again closing the final 8:44 of the half on a 5-0 run catapulting its halftime lead to 10-4. The Wildcats big three of Lasota, Skane and Gilbert took over in the closing minutes of the first half scoring all five goals. In the first half, Northwestern dominated the draw control winning 12 of 15 led by midfielder Brennan Dwyer.

“In the first half they were very physical and at halftime me and Kali had a talk going over some things we could change,” Colson said. “We saw better fight on the draw controls [in the second half],” Reese said.

Dwyer was a force at the draw circle and won with consistency in the first half. In addition to strong offense, the Wildcat defense did an outstanding job of closing off cutting lanes for the Maryland attackers and communicating where attackers were coming from on the field. When the Terps attackers did find shooting space, it was often from a tough angle, with a defender in their face.

“Weiss had a couple of big saves on good looks early on, I don’t think we made her work as hard as we should have,” Reese said.

Maryland outscored Northwestern 7-6 in the second half, however, every time the Terps scored the Wildcats would bounce right back. Junior midfielder Hannah Warther brought Maryland some energy less than two minutes into the second half dodging down the alley and firing the high bouncer into the back of the net.

Showing why she is one of the best attackers in the country, Lasota cut backdoor behind the Maryland defense and finished with ease stick faking past Taylor giving the Wildcats a six-goal lead once again.

“[Lasota] is a really great shooter, she was just finishing on a lot of her possessions,” Colson said.

As the second half progressed, Maryland and Northwestern continued to exchange goals. With each side exchanging goals, Maryland could not cut into the deficit until after Northwestern had taken a 14-7 lead their largest lead of the game. Digging in and continuing to fight, Maryland scored four of the next five goals cutting the Wildcat lead to 15-11. As the second half progressed Steele began to find her stride, picking up three assists a career-high at Maryland.

Amidst all of the frustration of today’s game, Taylor did pick up career save No. 700 in the second half. Despite the defeat, the Terps and coaching staff are taking the loss as a learning experience and will look to adjust moving forward heading into the NCAA Tournament.

“Today we actually learned a lot, you can’t be flat and expect to win against good teams.”

Maryland will find out their official NCAA Tournament seeding and opponent with the selection show tonight at 8 p.m., where the Terps are either going to be the No. 1 or No. 2 overall seed.