Here We Are… Again

TaylorThorntonNULax

As LTP noted earlier, Memorial Day means Northwestern lacrosse is going for its goal and playing for a national championship. Ho-hum stuff if you follow Northwestern lacrosse for a long time. This kind of thing tends to happen every year.

The last two years that has included games against Maryland — the grandmother of Northwestern’s program, so to speak. The Wildcats had a one-goal win in last year’s championship game over the Terrapins and they had another nail-biter in the national semifinals.

The Wildcats possessed the ball for a good five minutes with a one-goal lead in the second half before a Taylor Thornton free position shot with about 90 seconds left sealed the two-goal victory. Maryland was a very worthy adversary. The team was physical and swarming on defense, forcing NU away from the goal and into that possession game. Maryland wanted to get the ball up the field in a hurry and try to score quickly off their defense.

The problem is that the Wildcats are experienced enough and patient enough to play their style of game and keep possession really forever. That is what Northwestern has done all year. No lead (except for against a certain team in orange and blue that happened to be eliminated by Syracuse in the other semifinal) seems too much for Northwestern to overcome.

NU trailed again at halftime, this time by only one, and it felt like the team had Maryland right where it wanted. The Wildcats quickly re-took the lead and then methodically waited for the right opportunities and for the clock to run down.

This is not quite the dominant team we have seen from the Wildcats in the last seven years — where the Cats won six national championships. After all, the Terrapins scored significantly more goals than the Wildcats. This year’s team has a different style than previous iterations of the team.

And that is all OK. It is working and has the Wildcats playing for their seventh national championship and in the national championship game for the eighth straight year (consider that, two FULL classes of players have done nothing but play for a national championship). The only team that had the patience and skill to match Northwestern (it seems) is gone. Florida defeated Northwestern twice and will not get a shot at a third.

Feel free to leave your thoughts, comments, smack talk and whatever in the comments.

The trophy is within sight for Northwestern. The Memorial Day tradition continues Sunday night on ESPNU at 7 p.m.

  • cecece

    “The only team that had the patience and skill to match Northwestern (it seems) is gone.”

    well, the ‘Cats may have beaten Syracuse early in the season, but they beat Florida last night, and they have Trixie as an assistant coach (and we know what dramatic stuff she used to pull), so I’m a bit more respectful than that comment.

    the ‘Cats have found a way to develop players over the course of the season (Jes Carroll), overcome star players who are targeted (Shannon) by using other players (multiple players), and use the swarming defense of an assigned stalker (Keri Herrington) to stop a team’s best player. we will need all of that and more as we face the Orange. they are very hungry to win their first appearance in the title match.

    but I like the chances for the ‘Cats. KAH is calm and focused and keeps her players that way. they know how to follow a battle plan,and there is no more clear example of that than the masterful holding of the ball in yesterday’s game. even with the prospect of a fairly certain goal, the ball just kept floating around. excellent work.

    • zeek

      Yeah, that’s a bit of a stretch.

      This Syracuse team is legit. We beat them in OT right? Combined with the big victories they’ve gotten of late, you can’t take them lightly.

      It’s definitely a better matchup for us than Florida, but it’s not a given. We might be slightly favored, but that’s no guarantee of anything.

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      Don’t mean to disrespect Syracuse. It is going to be an incredibly tough game. I sort of expect another come-from-behind effort because that is what this team does. But Florida is the only team to defeat Northwestern and REALLY defeat them. I am pretty confident that NU will have a good chance to win this game. Should be a great matchup either way.

  • http://www.northwesternmix.com NUMBSpiritLeader

    Congrats on getting to the title game again! Get the win!

    Go Cats!

  • zeek

    Just want to comment on something that was posted in the previous post.

    We’re witnessing a lot of other programs begin to catch up to where we are now.

    Obviously, we had the good fortune of getting KAH and her building that dynasty, but you can’t take it for granted anymore. She’s an incredible coach, but the top of women’s lacrosse has a lot more parity than it did just a few years ago.

    We may be the top dog for a while still, but it’ll be like being the top dog with 5-6 legitimate contenders instead of being a top dog expected to roll.

    But that’s a good thing; competition is only a good thing and KAH has clearly continued to put it together to make it work.

  • Jim

    Woody Hayes and WLAX: “Possession” vs. “Pedal to the Metal”

    In retrospect, it seems so logical that in game-planning for the fire-power of a Florida, Syracuse or Maryland, the probability of prevailing victorious through a pi-shooting match ( “Pedal to the Metal” ) wouldn’t represent the best option. If you took in the WLAX semis double-header last night, as I did, and are prone to morning-after quarterbacking, the tactical debate in women’s lacrosse, code-named “P v PTTM” would be top of mind.

    First reflection. Regardless of the fire-power she commanded, you have to question the wisdom of Gator coach Amanda O’Leary continuing to go to goal, with a 7 point lead in the second half of an NCAA semi-final game. ( What Woody Hayes would say of passing the football holds true of shooting to the back of the net in lax, “They’re three things that can happen when you pass the ball and two of them aren’t good.” ) If you shoot and don’t score, there’s a better than 50% chance that you lose possession.

    Second reflection: The contrasting sideline demeanor of KAH and O’leary/ Maryland’s Cathy Reese seemed so symbolic of their gameplans themselves. As cecece said above, KAH seemed cool as a cucumber as she watched her team masterfully possess the ball with only a 1 goal lead in the latter part of the second half against Maryland. In contrast, in different points in both games, O’leary and Reese seemed to be losing it.

    Third reflection: If you’ve watched the Cats all year, you can understand how KAH’s critics may miss the difference between stalling and possession. Possession requires almost mistake-free execution like the Cats exhibited last night. Last night was beautiful to behold. Crisp. Methodical. ( Just like Fitz’s clock management ? ) In contrast, I had perceived the Cats performance in their games since the shellacking by the Gators as sloppy and confusing, giving up the early lead, but sticking to a slower-possession oriented approach to the game. It’s now apparent that KAH started game-planning for the NCAA Championship weekend back then. She knew that come the NCAA tournament, they’d not only have to re-master their draw dominance, but they had to perfect the possession game. Both happened last night.

    What’s boring/painful to one spectator is an aesthetic experience for another. That certainly could be said of the fan/coach experience in last night’s doubleheader. As they say, that’s what makes it a ballgame !

    P.S. I hope everyone heard the espn3 announcer quote Jim Phillips last nite: ” Taylor Thornton is arguably the best athlete they have on any team at NU.”

    • allpurple

      +1

  • http://theerrorofmyways.com/wordpress PilgrimCat

    Increasing parity is what’s coming. Women’s lacrosse is growing – it offers a Title IX opportunity for schools like USC (Lindsey Munday and Hilary Bowen on staff. Fear them when they start playing) and Colorado (Ann Elliot), it’s pretty cheap, serious injuries are comparatively rare, and there’s a growing base of players from youth and high school teams, where it’s growing fast. And KAH has changed the sport, accenting speed and agility. It’s also a sport where young ladies of ordinary size can compete quite nicely – women’s basketball is getting much taller, to the point that the 5’5″ girl with great athleticism is unlikely to get a look for basketball at a Division I school, but sure can in lacrosse. So parity is coming, and within a couple of years we can look for the end of dynasties like NU and Maryland. This is actually good. KAH will adapt, because that’s what great coaches do. Dean Smith won a few games after the NCAA adopted the shot clock and he had to give up the 4 corners offense. So we’ll be alright. The growth in parity is a tribute to what she’s done here, and that’s fine too.

    Go Cats!

  • GoU2009

    Anyone in LA going out to watch the game? I know it’s not football or basketball, but would love to go to a bar to watch NU win something…

  • Green Jacket

    The ‘Cats are ready.

    The parents are ready.

    The alums are ready.

    Stony Brook is ready.

    Are you ready?

    Wherever you are, get to a TV Sunday night and dial up the game because this is going to be a 60 minute (if not more) classic.

    Watching Syr live last night you might think they’re a team of destiny. You might think KD is helping design the ultimate game plan.

    But look across the field and this Wildcat team, when exhibiting their best performance, can not be denied.

    Stony Brook 2012. Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

    Buckle up.

  • gbb

    Hey, DC Wildcats – we will be at our usual game-watch spot (BlackFinn on I Street) to cheer on the team to #7!! Come join us!!

  • Steve Z

    Something fun to follow during the football offseason – In Off Tackle Empire’s All-Time Since 1996 tourney, #9 Seed 1996 NU has won its first 2 games ( including against #1 Seed 2002 Ohio State).

    http://www.offtackleempire.com/2012/5/26/3042400/ats1996btft-game-5-1996-northwestern-v-2002-ohio-state

    Good luck to our WLAX team tonight! Go ‘Cats!

  • CatInTheHat

    Parity is a good thing, and I’m more pumped for this game than I’ve been for the past several National Championship Games. I know–spoiled, but it’s great to see women’s Lax coming into its own. GO ‘CATS! Let’s make it seven!

  • NULax

    PRR, if Maryland is the \the grandmother of Northwestern’s program\ then we are in fact the \greatgrandmother of ourselves\ since former NU coach Cindy Timchal was at Northwestern before creating a great Maryland program and tutoring KAH.

    Also, I know what you meant by saying, \two FULL classes of [NU] players have done nothing but play for a national championship\ but more accurate and perhaps offering more credit would be the phrase, \five classes of players have done nothing but play for a national championship during their entire stay at Northwestern\

  • Jim

    Taylor Thornton Tewaaraton

    It goes hand in hand that wishing the Cats well in their game against Syracuse extends that wish to Taylor in her quest for the Tewaaraton trophy. Michelle Tumolo of Syracuse and Taylor are the two finalists left in the tourney. The Tewaaraton has a tradition of honoring individuals who lead their team to championships.

    The more I learn about the game, the more remarkable Taylor’s accomplishments become. Although Taylor is a remarkable natural athlete, the hookup with KAH has made her the remarkable threat from goal to goal. You don’t need to know much about lax to be dazzled as a spectator by Taylor’s speed, athleticism, grittiness and grace. But, her emergence in the stats as an offensive threat in addition to doing it all on defense ( especially draw controls and groundballs ) is simply without peer !
    Go Cats ! Go Taylor !

  • VAWildcat

    apparently the game has been moved to ESPNEWS, due to softball running long

  • vaudvillain

    Way to go, Cats!

  • zeek

    Yeah, just finished.

    Incredible. What can you say about this team and KAH. 7 titles in the past 8 years.

    And even with the increasing parity at the top, still managing to remain the top dog.

West Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Minnesota1000
Purdue1000
Iowa1000
Nebraska1000
Illinois1000
Northwestern0100
Wisconsin0100

East Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Rutgers1000
Penn State1000
Michigan1000
Michigan State1000
Ohio State1000
Indiana1000
Maryland1000