If you read my preview, you know I'm not surprised by Northwestern losing this game. North Carolina is a very good team, and the Tar Heels had already beaten NU this season. But I am surprised that NU was beaten soundly by a final of 11-4 in Philadelphia on Friday.
NU couldn't find a rhythm against North Carolina. They scored just once in the first half and couldn't convert on free position opportunities. They received six yellow cards and North Carolina converted four times with a man advantage. Many on Twitter speculated that UNC goalie Megan Ward being left-handed gave the 'Cats trouble. Whether or not that was the case, Ward was fantastic. She stopped seven of 11 Wildcat attempts.
I'll have a lot more to say on this game tomorrow when I feel capable of putting things in perspective, but this one hurt. Even though I knew that NU couldn't dominate the game of women's lacrosse forever, I was shocked to see them go down this easily in a Final Four game.
This was the game where NU could have used a truly dominant offensive player. All season, the team has been great at spreading the wealth offensively, but they didn't have anyone capable of breaking down North Carolina's defense. When they did, they failed to score on free position opportunities. You obviously don't want to rely on one player, but when nothing else is working sometimes you needs one player who is capable of taking over. NU lacked that in this game.
I don't want to make a bold proclamation based on one performance, but to me this game showed that the state of women's lacrosse has changed. Northwestern is no longer head and shoulders above the other elite teams in women's lacrosse. The days of beating North Carolina 21-7 in a national championship game (which they did in 2009) are probably over. Instead of being the top dog this year, NU was one of five really good teams. I think that's what we'll see more of from here on out.
On Bob Dylan's birthday, I think that we can say that The Times They Are a-Changin' in women's lacrosse.
NU finishes the season 19-3 and will likely be ranked in the top 5 when all is said and done. The fact that we're disappointed by that shows how remarkable this program is.