A very good Northwestern team was no match for a Syracuse team that featured clinical scoring, sweltering defense, aggressive goaltending and draw control dominance on Sunday. No. 2 Syracuse (5-0) proved too much for No. 5 NU (1-2), using a late 5-0 run to win 16-12.
The matchup between two legitimate title contenders certainly lived up to its billing. In the first half, both teams had stretches of dominance, and neither led by more than three. After Syracuse raced out to a 3-0 lead in just over three minutes, NU slowly but surely battled back. The Wildcats barely caught a sniff of the ball in the first five minutes, but they finally got the ball rolling when senior Kaleigh Craig netted her fifth goal of the season with 21:20 to go. From there, NU got going, scoring four more goals, two from free positions, to take a 5-3 lead with 12:15 to play in the half.
Undeterred, Syracuse star senior Kayla Treanor rattled off two goals in 43 seconds to level the score at five. After NU’s Sheila Nesselbush recorded her second of the game to put the ‘Cats back up 6-5, the Orange scored three times in the final 4:32, and headed into halftime with an 8-6 lead.
NU had a prime opportunity to get back into the game with two Syracuse players serving two-minute non-releasable penalties to start the second half and, with two seconds left in the man-advantage, Christina Esposito scored to pull the ‘Cats within one. Just over four minutes later, Nesselbush struck again to level the score at eight with 23:41 to play.
After that, however, the Orange began to pull away for good. In the next eight minutes, both Taylor Gait and Nicole Levy scored twice to help Syracuse to a 13-8 lead with 16 minutes left. Goals by Craig and Ingrilli shrunk the deficit to three with 10 minutes on the clock, but Syracuse then struck three more times over a span of 1:36 to pull ahead 16-10. The Wildcats scored twice late to make it respectable, but it wasn’t enough, as Syracuse maintained its perfect record with a 16-12 win.
NU played the second-best team in the country tough in its first game back from a two-week layoff. The Wildcats’ 12 goals are a new season-high, but the goal output was restricted to just four players. Craig and Nesselbush led the way with four points, both paced by hat-tricks. Esposito added a hat-trick of her own, and Ingrilli’s two goals opened her account on the season. Freshman goalie Mallory Weisse turned in another good performance against the best offense she’s faced, turning aside seven Syracuse shots.
As good as the Orange’s offense was, their defense and midfield play was the true difference-maker. The defense completely eliminated NU star Selena Lasota, as the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year wasn’t even allowed to get a shot on net, much less a goal. This is just the second time in her NU career that Lasota has failed to tally two goals.
The ‘Cats now have a quick turnaround as their difficult non-conference slate continues. Northwestern heads to Louisville to take on the top-20 Cardinals on March 3 before its home opener against Marquette on March 8.