Syracuse's first win against Northwestern came back in 2003. Since then, the Wildcats have won 10 in-a-row against the Orange, the last one coming during last year's national championship game thriller. Here are a few things that stand out to me when it comes to Saturday's matchup at 2:00 EST in Evanston.
Northwestern's Defense: If there is one flaw the Wildcats have -- in my opinion -- it's their defense. In both games that I watched, away versus Navy and home against the Ohio State, the defense was cause for concern, specifically on the crease and the lack of weak side help. The Wildcats play defense like the Orange, high pressure beyond the 12 meter. It's a high risk, high reward gamble that both teams are willing to roll the dice on. When it works, it's breathtaking, when it doesn't? it makes for a looong afternoon. Against Ohio State, the color announcer described the Wildcats defense as "pourous" and that the Buckeyes were having its way finding the necessary scoring holes. On the flip side, the Orange welcomes this style of play. Michelle Tumolo pointed out in its postgame press conference after its win against UConn, it gives the squad the ability to freelance and see what there is to work with.
Interesting side note: Look for Northwestern's Kerri Harrington to faceguard Michelle Tumolo in Saturday's game. Harrington is one of the nation's best defender in terms of locking down the opponent's top scorer.
Northwestern's Alyssa Leonard: The go-to girl when it comes to the most important statistical category in women's lacrosse -- the draw -- Leonard averages 7.9 draws per game, good for second in the country. In last year's national championship game versus the Orange, Leonard grabbed six draws and quickly established herself as a key component to the Wildcats' seventh championship in eight years.
Speaking of the draw control, sophomore Kailah Kempney had herself a solid game on Wednesday against Boston College, notching three goals and three draw controls. Kempney has been somewhat quiet this season, finding the net just eight times this season and grabbing 15 draw controls -- good for second on the team.
Pedal To The Metal: The Orange need to have one of its fast starts and not get comfortable with the lead. The Wildcats, one-by-one, chipped away at the Buckeyes' three goal advantage in the second half and never looked back. After its loss against No. 3 North Carolina, Northwestern head coach Kelly Amonte-Hiller said the team really needed to focus on its decision making after its loss against No. 3 North Carolina. Amonte-Hiller's team is sound, smart and does not panic when it finds itself in a hole.
Veteran Experience: Senior Erin Fitzgerald leads a Northwestern offense that ranks fifth in the country and headlines in points (61) and goals (29). Don't count out senior, Taylor Thorton, either. Amonte-Hiller has asked much of the defender-turned-midfielder and she hasn't been disappointed. The senior scored a career-high four goals versus the Buckeyes in the come-from-behind win.
TV Note: The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.