Syracuse, Northwestern duel with a trip to NCAA Championship on the line
College basketball insider Jon Rothstein is famous for saying, “We sleep in May,” but sleep will have to wait until June. As the NCAA women’s lacrosse season comes to a head, four teams meet in Towson, Maryland, with dreams of a national title in tow.
While it might be a chalk bracket in the Final Four, meaning the four teams left are the four top seeds, we’re at least going to see the best lacrosse possible. After North Carolina and Boston College faceoff at noon, it’ll be 3rd-seeded Syracuse (16-3, 8-2 ACC) going up against 2nd-seeded Northwestern (15-0, 11-0 Big Ten).
It’s Orange’s 8th appearance in the Final Four, all of them have come under current head coach Gary Gait, and it’s just their first since 2016. The program has yet to win a national championship.
Changing that starts with the opponent at hand. The Wildcats have had, no pun intended, a wildly successful season. They’ve beaten every team they’ve played, and they’ve done so handily. They boast the largest scoring margin in the country and have rolled through the likes of Denver and Duke en route to a Final Four berth.
The large majority of that scoring is shouldered by two Wildcat players: attackers Izzy Scane and Lauren Gilbert. Scane leads the nation in points per game by well over a point and a half, and she also scores the most goals in the country at 6.27 a game.
Your eyes aren’t deceiving you, Scane is averaging more than a double hat trick every contest. Gilbert has also had an incredible season in her own right: she ranks 7th in the country in goals per game.
So, how do the Orange beat a team that can seemingly score at will? At the risk of stating the obvious, it starts with good defense. SU does boast a top-15 scoring defense, but the back end needs to be all systems go to get it done against the powerhouse that is Northwestern.
On the other end, the Syracuse offense needs to get shots, shots, and more shots. The Orange were able to get 17 past Florida, who has the best goalie in the country, so they’ll need to carry that scoring momentum into this one.
Being the lower seed, the Orange are viewed, at least in the eyes of the selection committee, as the lesser team. But head coach Gary Gait doesn’t see it that way. In an interview on the show Packer and Durham, Gait said, “It’s not like we’re a big underdog or anything, it’s just a matter of who’s going to step up, play well, and make big plays.”
One game stands between Syracuse and a chance at the national title. The Orange and the Wildcats get underway on Friday at 2:00 pm.