The Northern Michigan University women’s lacrosse team was there to prove their incredible start was real, but the Wildcats rose to a tough challenge by hosting No. 9 Grand Valley State University, and the Lakers dominated with a 21- 4 Friday night. .
NMU (8-4, 2-2 GLIAC) clung to the nationally ranked Lakers for most of the first half, and freshman midfielder Maddi Bast was doing his best to keep the ‘ Cats in it. Bast scored the first goal of the game and netted a second in the second period when he fell to the ground, and an acrobatic effort got the ball past GVSU sophomore 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 in the dying seconds of the first quarter, Grand Valley capitalized on a free position shot from junior midfielder Molly Bursinger with six seconds left for a crucial goal to make it 4-2. Bast’s goal made it 5-3 with 13:41 left in the second period, but the game went out of control afterwards. The Lakers scored four straight goals to end the half, including two goals from graduate forward Sophie Conroy in the 1:01 final. 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 type 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 of the break and held 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 goals in the second half to lead GVSU with four goals, 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 what was a total Lakers team effort. impressively.
What didn’t help the Wildcats was the absence of two key players, senior midfielder Jessica Daniels and second-year midfielder Madeline Bittell. Daniels provides plenty of experience and also plays defense, and Bittell is the team’s leading scorer with 33 goals in the Wildcats’ first 10 games. Even though they wouldn’t have won the game with those two players, she said it helped the team have confidence in the two in the lineup.
“I think we’re pretty much where I expected us to be, so that’s no shock to me,” LeMay said. “I think it’s important that the younger members of 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 rise to 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 No. 18 Davenport, where both Bittell and Daniels returned to the lineup. After leading 14-3 at halftime, Northern’s valiant comeback failed, 19-15.
NMU now has 10 days off and will be back in action at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13 at home against Concordia-St. Paul must try to come back on the winning side.