With the spring seasons slowly winding down for a few varsity programs, nothing starts the month of May better than a strong campaign finish, right in the middle of good ol’ midterms. North by Northwestern checks out what went down in Wildcat athletics this past week.
Women’s lacrosse suffered through last week’s downpour at Ohio State and had to close out a last-second win against Stanford, just to secure a new winning streak after two straight losses. You’d think fortunes would finally take it easy on Northwestern, but no, the Wildcats had to sweat out an 8-4 victory against No. 11 Virginia on Saturday night.
The eight-point offensive output is the second-worst match of the season – the worst being seven points in an overtime victory against then-No. 3 UNC – but after being down 3-2 at halftime, Northwestern finally took over and closed out the final regular season match with a win. The ‘Cats second season, however, is just about to begin; the ALC tournament begins on Friday and the second-ranked ‘Cats get a bye before taking on their first match in Nashville, Tenn.
Good grief! A week after postponing a game against UIC for Monday, the ugly weather in the Chicagoland area forced a cancellation of a game that Northwestern sorely needed to mark down as a win. The persistent rain followed the ‘Cats into West Lafayette, Ind., where a doubleheader against Purdue was also canceled and leaving the ‘Cats without three potential victories in their schedule.
The doldrums would only get worse; Northwestern suffered another crushing come-from-behind loss against a Big Ten foe, this time against Illinois 5-4, on Saturday via a walk-off homer. Sunday wouldn’t get any better, as the Wildcats would fail to come out clutch in the end, squandering a bases-loaded opportunity in the top of the seventh inning to coax a few runs out. Northwestern would lose the second game 5-3, and drop to 4-8 in conference and 22-15 overall.
The baseball diamond wouldn’t be any more merciful. Rain wiped out Tuesday and Wednesday’s matches against St. Xavier and North Central College before the weekend slate against Illinois. While the ‘Cats managed to strike first with a 9-2 victory on Friday, the Illini would respond with Saturday’s 6-3 drubbing and Sunday’s rubber match victory 9-4.
One week after suffering the team’s first conference loss to No. 10 Michigan, a flurry of commanding wins in the Big Ten tournament this week landed them right back where they left off, so to speak. After sweeping Indiana and Illinois respectively, the ‘Cats found themselves playing against the very same squad that handed them their seventh loss of the year, and this time for all the marbles.
After falling behind 0-3, Northwestern would fire off four straight match wins, including the clincher by freshman Belinda Niu, to secure the team’s 13th straight Big Ten title. The thrilling win now puts Northwestern in a prime spot for the announcement of the NCAA Tournament selections on Tuesday, as the Wildcats now gear up for national postseason play.
On the men’s side, the conference tournament this past week pitted Northwestern against Michigan State in the opening round, but the ‘Cats folded in a final margin of 4-2. Junior Joshua Graves would be rewarded for his hard work and No. 1 status on the team, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors – first in his career ever.
For the women, Northwestern sophomore Lauren Weaver earned first team All-Big Ten accolades after placing second in the conference championships and head coach Emily Fletcher earned co-Big Ten coach of the year honors. The two awards come merely days after learning that Northwestern would participate in NCAA regionals as the 13th ranked squad in the tournament.
At the Big Ten tournament for men’s golf this past weekend, Northwestern brought the past two individual Big Ten champions into the fold, with 2009 winner Eric Chun and 2010 champ David Lipsky ready to tee off from Purdue University’s campus. Unfortunately, Northwestern couldn’t make it a trifecta of individual winners, as the junior and senior managed tenth and third place overall standings, but the team as a whole combined to finish strong and roll to a second place team finish. It capped an impressive performance for a squad that had expected both Chun and Lipsky to compete to the end for the individual crown, overachieving despite slow starts from both of their stars. Northwestern will now await to hear about NCAA selections later this week.