CHICAGO — The University of Chicago women's lacrosse team fought to a 17-10 victory over a persistent North Central College squad in a College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) Tournament semifinal matchup on Wednesday night at Stagg Field. The hosts earned a conference championship berth in the program's inaugural season.
The No. 2-seed Maroons (15-2, 6-1 CCIW) overcame a slow start against the swarming No. 3-seed Cardinals (14-4, 5-2 CCIW). UChicago faced its largest home deficit of the year after conceding two early goals and did not get on the board until over 15 minutes had elapsed – its longest such wait this season. In the first meeting between the teams, North Central had jumped out to a 5-2 lead before the Maroons roared to life. As UChicago sought to replicate that rally, the Cardinals kept up the pace and it was still a one-goal game with 25 minutes to play. Over the next 12 minutes, however, the Maroons went on a 6-1 tear to book their place in the championship game.
First-year midfielder Karina Schulze proved indispensable with six goals, nine ground balls, six draw controls and six caused turnovers — all team highs. On a night the draw was fiercely contested, first-year midfielder Anne Sensenig also nabbed six to aid UChicago as it maintained a 16-13 edge. Sensenig made the most of the possession she helped win, pouring in five goals with a crucial hat trick in the back-and-forth first half. First-year attacker Lally Johnson took on the role of facilitator, leading her teammates with five assists.
First-years Adriana Shutler and Jordan Coan anchored the Maroon defense, which stiffened after early incursions did some damage. In the end North Central got 19 shots off, with only two from free positions, while turning the ball over 32 times. Shutler and Coan each scooped up four ground balls as the hosts gathered 33 to the Cardinals' 20.
UChicago fired 46 shots, with 35 on target, but the remarkable efforts of North Central's goalie stymied 18 of those chances. This especially stung in the first half as the Maroons converted just one of seven free position shots.
North Central took the opening draw and scored less than a minute into the contest, then further discomfited the hosts with a second goal just 39 seconds later. The Cardinals' aggression and a string of Maroon turnovers kept the pressure on, though UChicago gradually began to produce a few glances at goal.
Fifteen minutes had passed with nothing to show for it until Schulze muscled her way in front of goal from the left side, squared up, and spiked the ball into net. Energized by the breakthrough, UChicago tied it up a minute-and-a-half later as Johnson threaded the needle with a pass to Sensenig for a quick score. Sensenig struck again to claim UChicago's first lead of the day, reaching high for a pass over the middle and pulling it down low for a sidearm finish.
The Cardinals notched the next two goals to leave the Maroons behind again before Schulze slipped in to deposit a free position and even the score at four goals apiece. Sensening drove through the middle for a prompt follow-up, losing her defender with a hesitation move and bouncing one in to make it 5-4.
As the half drew to a close, Johnson got free in transition and after some jostling, powered it home for a two-goal margin at the break.
That margin improved almost immediately as Schulze secured the second-half draw and tallied again, firing high inside the near post as she drifted across the face of goal. Now at 7-4, it suddenly seemed the Maroons might decisively tip the momentum, but just as abruptly North Central bagged two goals, the latter shorthanded, and threatened to knot things up.
A vital draw control put UChicago in position to secure more breathing room and first-year midfielder Ali Sheehy crashed through to do just that on a feed from Johnson. Junior midfielder Maya De Jonge cut in next for a 9-6 edge that prompted a North Central timeout.
After regrouping, the Cardinals regained the initiative. Their initial push for a quick strike was denied as junior goalie Honor Crandell stopped a point-blank free position. The visitors would eventually find the next goal, but only after six minutes had elapsed.
With 15 minutes remaining, North Central had possession and only needed two goals to equalize, but Sheehy soon buried a pair of free positions in rapid succession to pull her team further clear of danger. The margin extended to five as Schulze sliced across from the left, with the Cardinals responding immediately only to see her cancel their effort out from a free position.
The visitors scored twice more, but each time Sensenig answered promptly as the Maroons settled into possession with time on their side. First-year attacker Sarah Bloomquist slung in a sidearm shot and Schulze slid through once more to cap off the evening.
The victory sets the stage for a rematch with No. 1-seed Illinois Wesleyan University (16-2, 7-0 CCIW). The defending conference champions have lost only one CCIW game in the past three seasons, although the Maroons nearly made it two before coming out on the wrong side of an 8-7 battle when the teams met in April.
- Saturday, May 4 @ 12:00 PM - UChicago at Illinois Wesleyan University (CCIW Tournament Final)