Northern Michigan University women’s lacrosse team reaches stratospheric heights with 6-game win streak
MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University women’s lacrosse team has gone on an extended winning streak to improve to by far its best record in program history during March.
The Wildcats recently won their sixth consecutive game to improve to 8-2, already the most wins in a season in the relatively short history of the program that dates to 2017. Last fall’s team set the wins high-water mark in a 6-8 season that included a 4-4 GLIAC campaign.
NMU has won its first two conference games, their most recent two it played at Concordia-St. Paul 16-11 and at Upper Iowa 24-3, the latter tying for the most goals Northern has ever scored in a game.
For a program that has never had a winning record, NMU is putting up some impressive numbers, outscoring opponents 152-95 so far this season and outshooting them nearly 2 to 1, with a average margin per game of 37.1 to 19.0.
Individually, Madeline Bittell leads the team in all three scoring categories with 33 goals, 10 assists and 43 points. Maddi Bast has 29 goals and 30 points, while Emily Renfrew has contributed 19 goals and 20 points.
The task gets tougher now for these Wildcats as their next match is at home against nationally ranked Grand Valley State at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 1.
The Lakers are 8-1 and have yet to play a GLIAC game this spring. Last season, GVSU had a perfect conference slate, going 8-0 in the regular season and undefeated in the league tournament to clinch that title, too.
That match opens a four-game homestand for the Wildcats with other matches in the Superior Dome to be played against Davenport on April 3, Concordia-St. Paul on April 13 and Upper Iowa on April 15. Two more road matches wrap up Northern’s regular season.
Here is a rundown of the Wildcats’ past eight matches dating back over the past month:
NMU 15, Lewis 4
On Feb. 27 in NMU’s most recent home game, Bittell, Renfrew and teammate Aleya Speas each recorded a three-goal (or more) hat trick as Northern jumped out to a 9-1 lead early in the third quarter.
Speas and Bittell each had four goals while Renfrew added three. Bast had two goals, while a single goal was scored by both Clara Johnson and Olivia Rose.
Johnson and Dayna Carlson had NMU’s assists, while teammate Aliyah Smukala made three saves in the Wildcats’ net.
Rockhurst 15, NMU 12
On March 1 in Kansas City, Mo., Northern chalked up its only loss this month as the Hawks scored four straight goals late in the third and early in the fourth quarter to break open a one-goal game.
Bast and Taylor Priestley each notched three-goal hat tricks for NMU, while Bittell had two goals and Renfrew, Carlson, Speas and Kaitlyn Bridger each had single scores.
The Wildcats either led or were tied throughout the first half, going up two at 4-2 and 5-3 before Rockhurst tied it for the fourth time at 6-6 early in the second half.
That began an 8-2 outburst that put the home team firmly ahead 13-8 early in the final period.
NMU did scored the game’s final three goals in the last 3 1/2 minutes, two by Priestley, to close the gap.
Smukala made four saves in the loss.
NMU 14, Missouri Western State 12
On March 3 at St. Joseph, Mo., Bast and Northern teammate Camryn Mayer scored goals in the final 30 seconds to break a 12-12 tie and start what would become the Wildcats’ current six-game win streak.
Bast scored with 24 seconds left to break the deadlock while Mayer added one with two seconds remaining for insurance.
This was Mayer’s second goal of the game and second of her collegiate career.
Meanwhile, Bast finished with a team-high three goals as Bridger, Renfrew and Bittell joined Mayer in scoring a pair of goals for NMU. Speas, Johnson and Priestley each scored once as Smukala stopped four shots for the victory.
NMU fell behind 3-0, 4-1 and 5-2 in the game’s first 24 minutes before starting its comeback, outscoring the Griffons 6-1 during the middle two quarters to take an 8-6 lead. The Wildcats bumped their advantage to three, 11-8, before MWS began its own comeback, tying the game with 58 seconds left.
NMU 17, Wartburg 4
On March 4 at Waverly, Iowa, the Wildcats had their most dominant game up to that date by rolling up leads of 6-0 and 13-1.
Bast finished with a three-goal hat trick, while Bridger, Carlson and Gabby Valadez each scored two goals and Speas, Bittell, Johnson, Priestley, Olivia Rose, Rylee Haug, Chloe Everson and Jane Taylor added one apiece.
Cam Stilson got the nod in the NMU net, stopping two shots for the victory.
NMU 13, Notre Dame College 11
On March 11 at South Euclid, Ohio, Northern’s win streak reached three in a game shortened to three quarters due to snow.
Bittell made sure NMU had the lead throughout, as she scored the contest’s first goal about 2 1/2 minutes in and finished with a game-high six goals. Renfrew added two goals as Carlson, Bast, Johnson, Priestley and Speas scored one each.
Bittell had her hat trick after barely more than eight minutes of play and finished the first quarter with four markers that put Northern up 5-3. After ND pulled within one in the first minute of the second period, Bittell scored goals 10 seconds apart less than a minute later to reaffirm a more comfortable NMU lead.
Smukala and Stilson split time in the NMU net, with Smukala making one save and getting credited with the victory.
NMU 15, Ashland 10
On March 13 at Ashland, Ohio, Bittell again went off for a half-dozen goals to finish NMU’s nonconference season with a 6-2 record. It put her at that point at 25 goals and 34 points this season.
Renfrew added five goals as she and Bittell scored all six of the Wildcats’ second-half goals. They were needed as Ashland nearly erased a 9-3 halftime deficit with five straight goals in the first eight minutes of the third quarter to pull within 9-8.
Then Bittell and Renfrew finished off the period and began the fourth with alternating goals to re-establish a 13-8 advantage.
Bast added two goals to the winning effort, while Carlson and Johnson had one apiece.
For the second straight game, Smukala and Stilson split time in the NMU net, with Smukala making two saves and getting the win, while Stilson had four stops.
NMU 16, Concordia-St. Paul 11
On Friday at St. Paul, Minn., the Wildcats opened their GLIAC season with a fourth-quarter onslaught that turned a tight game into a relative blowout.
Carlson gave Northern a 6-5 lead in the middle of the second quarter that it wouldn’t relinquish, but that didn’t mean it was easy after that.
CSP pulled within 10-9 late in the third before NMU scored five goals in a row in the final quarter, finishing the period with a 6-2 advantage.
Bast scored the first two in the onslaught to give her five for the game, the same number as Bittell, which gave her 17 goals over three games.
Carlson and Johnson added two goals each, while Renfrew and Speas had one apiece.
Smukala took care of business in the Northern net, keeping busy by making 11 saves.
NMU 24, Upper Iowa 3
On Sunday at Fayette, Iowa, Northern scored its biggest margin of victory ever by rolling up nine goals in the opening quarter and racing to a 15-2 advantage by halftime.
Bast clinched her hat trick before the first quarter was over, scoring her team’s first two goals and last one of the period to finish with five. Bittell and Johnson added three each, while Carlson, Valadez and Emily Radke contributed two apiece. Knocking in one were Renfrew, Speas, Everson, Natalie McGinnis, Ella Larson, Camryn Mayer and Peyton Smith.
Smukala made one save in limited action and Stilson six in the NMU net.
Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is email@example.com.