Erin Coykendall makes a play. She leads the team in assists and will have to be on her A-game like the others to win. Photo by Maren Kranking/North by Northwestern.

In a flurry of quick passes and well-aimed shots, Northwestern women’s lacrosse (19-1, 6-0 B1G) is heading to their fourth consecutive Final Four.

The ’Cats are on top of the world as they enter the tournament semifinals, with a B1G title in their back pocket, a #1 national rank and a 19-game win streak that stretches all the way back to February. The road to the title is sure to be difficult, but as Northwestern has proven time and again this season, Wildcats refuse to shrink in the face of a challenge.

The Lineup

Northwestern’s greatest strength is their offense – the ’Cats lead the nation in goals per game with 17, and come in second in points per game (which consists of goals plus assists) with 25.15.

The offensive charge is led by graduate attacker Izzy Scane, a scoring powerhouse ranked first in the country in goals per game and points per game with 4.94 and 6.67, respectively. She led the ’Cats with seven goals and three assists in Northwestern's 16-6 victory over #8 Loyola Maryland (19-3, 9-0 Patriot) in the tournament quarterfinals.

Northwestern’s second-leading scorer, graduate transfer attacker Hailey Rhatigan, comes in at number 12 nationally with 3.44 goals per game, and fourth-year attacker Erin Coykendall leads the team with 45 assists. Combined with her 53 goals this season, Coykendall is ranked eighth in the nation in points per game.

First-year attacker Madison Taylor has also made her mark as the fourth-leading scorer on the team with 47 goals and recipient of the B1G Freshman of the Year award following the conference tournament.

Third-year defender Kendall Halpern leads the team’s defense with 33 ground balls and has caused 25 turnovers. Second-year defender Samantha White has been a defensive machine, grabbing 32 ground balls and causing a team-high 27 turnovers. While Northwestern’s defense is not quite as strong as their offense, ranking 12th nationally in goals allowed per game, the team boasts a scoring margin of 7.85, the highest in the nation.

The Bracket

Northwestern’s #1 rank afforded the team a first-round bye, so they have seen two rounds of action thus far. After a too-close-for-comfort victory over #14 Michigan (12-8, 3-3 B1G), the ’Cats came bounding back to easily defeat Loyola Maryland.

This Friday, Northwestern faces the #5 Denver Pioneers (22-0, 6-0 Big East), the only undefeated team in the country and the first Denver squad in history to reach the Final Four. The Pioneers have the strongest defense in the nation, allowing just 5.82 goals per game. Northwestern will need to be firing on all cylinders if their unstoppable offense is to break down Denver’s immovable defense.

Also remaining in the tournament are #2 Syracuse (18-2, 8-1 ACC) and #3 Boston College (18-3, 8-1 ACC). Both teams are offensive forces, Syracuse ranking third nationally in goals per game and Boston College coming in 10th. Syracuse was Northwestern’s first and only loss this season, and the ’Cats narrowly beat Boston 15-14 back in February; if the ’Cats make it to Sunday’s championship game, either opponent will be tough.

The Expectations

Confidence is high as the ’Cats head to the semifinals. With 19 wins under their belt and the best offense in the country, Northwestern has the momentum, the talent and the chemistry to go all the way. Now, it’s a matter of putting the pieces together, just like they’ve done all season, but this time on the biggest stage in college lacrosse.

Anyone paying attention knows the ’Cats are good. In the next week of play, they can prove they’re the best.

Thumbnail photo by Maren Kranking/North by Northwestern