MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University women’s lacrosse team was there to prove their unprecedented strong start to the season was real, but the Wildcats hit a brick wall when they faced No. 9-ranked Grand Valley State at the national level, Friday evening in the Upper Dome.
The Lakers dominated with a 21-4 win to keep an all-time perfect record against NMU intact at 9-0.
NMU, who despite the loss were still 8-3 on aggregate and 2-1 in the GLIAC, held firm for most of the first half as North freshman midfielder Maddi Bast made its best to keep the ‘Cats in it.
Bast scored the first goal of the game, then scored a second in the second period while falling to the ground as her acrobatic effort allowed the ball past GVSU sophomore goaltender Audrey Maloney.
Sophomore striker Clara Johnson scored Northern’s other first-half goal on an assist from first-year midfielder Gabby Valadez.
Leading 3-2 at the end of the first quarter, Grand Valley capitalized on a free position shot from junior midfielder Molly Bursinger with 6 seconds left for a crucial goal to make it 4-2. .
As Bast’s goal cut NMU’s deficit to 5-3 with 13:41 to go in the first half, the game spiraled out of control afterwards. The Lakers scored four straight goals to end the half, including two from graduate forward Sophie Conroy in the final 61 seconds. Conroy and Bursinger each scored three goals in the first half, and sophomore forward Maddy Champagne netted two to maintain a good balance for the Lakers.
“I think we’re just not used to the kind of pace this team is playing with,” NMU coach Lindsey LeMay said. “They deserve their first place in the country, they play with pace all game, they get the balls 50-50 in a way that we don’t. We just don’t finish those games, and it’s hard to see a team do that without your momentum waning.
The Lakers scored the first two goals out of the break for an 11-3 lead. Senior forward Emily Renfrew scored the Wildcats’ fourth and final goal with 10:07 left in the third period, and the Lakers went 10 straight in the final 25 minutes to put it away.
Champagne scored two more second-half goals to lead GVSU with four goals, while Conroy, Bursinger and junior forward Kate DeYoung each scored three goals. Three other Lakers — junior midfielder Maggie Hammer, sophomore midfielder Hailey Crittenden and freshman midfielder Ashleigh Rothe — added two goals each to complete an all-team effort for the Lakers.
What didn’t help the Wildcats was the absence of two key players, senior midfielder Jessica Daniels and sophomore midfielder Madeline Bittell. Daniels provides plenty of experience and also plays defense, while Bittell leads the team with 33 goals in the Wildcats’ first 10 games.
LeMay hopes the two will be back soon, and while they may not have won this game with these two players, she said it helps the team’s confidence with the two in the lineup.
“I think we’re pretty much where I expected where we’d be, that’s no shock to me,” said LeMay. “I think it’s important that the youngest in our team realize what the highest level is and what the standard is if you want to be the best in the GLIAC.
“You really have to take on this challenge, and we’re not there yet, obviously. It shows how much we have to grow to be able to move forward.
The Wildcats had a quick turnaround on Sunday against another nationally ranked team, No. 24 Davenport, and lost by a much tighter 19-15.
By the time
Renfrew got the first goal for NMU (8-4, 2-2), Davenport’s Anna Glynn scored twice and teammate Ayanna Turrubiates once as the Panthers had a 3-1 advantage. Aleya Speas delivered a fine pass for Renfrew’s goal, according to NMU Sports Information.
DU added another point, this one 4-1, to move up 7-2 after a quarter. Northern’s goal in that period was scored by Bittell, while Glynn completed his three-goal hat-trick in the first period.
The Wildcats fell into a bigger hole in the second quarter, trailing 14-3 at halftime as their only goal of the period was again scored by Bittell. Meanwhile, Turrubiates, who scored twice in the first quarter, added four more in the second for a six-goal first half.
Even though the Panthers pushed the game into a running clock when they increased their lead to 16-6 in the third quarter, Northern started their comeback. First, Bittell scored twice within a minute to stop the clock. Bast scored another goal in the dying seconds of the quarter to make it 16-9 going into the fourth.
And even though DU scored first to open the final period, NMU scored six times on goals from Bast, Renfrew, Valadez, Sepas, Daniels and Camryn Mayer to come much closer to the final margin.
Bittell finished with five goals, while Bast, Renfrew and Speas each scored two.
NMU now has 10 days off before returning to action at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13, at home against Concordia-St. Paul. The Wildcats’ final home game of the regular season is two days later at 5 p.m. on April 15 against Upper Iowa.
Travis Nelson can be reached by email at [email protected]