In a high energy, high stakes game under the lights, the No. 14 Wildcats (9-8, 4-2 B1G) were unable to upset No. 1 Maryland, falling by a score of 18-9. With a win, the ‘Cats would have given themselves the chance to win the B1G regular season title, pending the result of Penn State vs. Michigan this Sunday. Instead, Northwestern will likely finish the season as the No. 3 seed in the conference while the Terrapins clinched the regular season championship.
The Wildcats started the game strong, winning the possession battle and consistently putting shots on goal on their way to a 2-1 lead with 18:59 to go in the first half. These first two goals were scored by attackmen Nicole Beardsley and Danita Stroup, who would go on to combine for seven of Northwestern’s nine goals in the game. However, after this goal the game definitively shifted in Maryland’s favor after the 15:00 mark, as they scored four unanswered goals (three from Caroline Steele) to take a 5-2 lead.
For the rest of the period, NU struggled to keep pace with Maryland’s offensive attack. Zoe Stukenberg scored her 37th goal of the season for the Terrapins before Taylor Hensh scored a pair of goals in two minutes to give Maryland an 8-3 edge. Though Northwestern consistently put shots on goal, sophomore goalie Megan Taylor made a number of remarkable saves (nine total) for Maryland, to the delight of the large contingent of Terrapin fans at the game. The Wildcat crowd reawakened after a Beardsley goal, but Caroline Steele crushed the momentum with her 4th goal to give the Terps a 9-4 lead at the half.
Maryland continued to dominate at the beginning of the second half, effectively putting the game away. In the first 15 minutes they piled up five goals, including two from Hensh and two from Steele, compared to only one for Northwestern, scored by Sheila Nesselbush. The ‘Cats put up a fight at the end, with goals from Christina Esposito, Beardsley, and a pair from Stroup, but the outcome was never in question.
The Terrapins dominated in nearly all aspects of the game. They collected 22 ground balls to NU’s 14, had 11 turnovers to NU’s 17, and committed 26 fouls to NU’s 31. A bright spot for the Wildcats was junior Nicole Beardsley, who scored 4 goals after having just 8 the entire rest of the season.
The Wildcats will now prepare to avenge tonight’s loss as well as last year’s championship loss to Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament, which begins on May 5 and will be hosted in College Park, Md. It is the first time that the tournament will feature 4 teams, and the third year the tournament has existed. Their opponent and game time is to be determined.