Northwestern's lacrosse team begins its national title defense Saturday when the Wildcats host Notre Dame at Lakeside Field in their first NCAA tournament game.
The No. 2-seeded Wildcats (17-2) are coming off their second loss to Florida this season, a 14-7 defeat. It was the second time NU lost to Florida this season, the first being an 8-7 loss.
And that 14-7 loss was NU's worst since 2003.
The Wildcats beat Notre Dame 17-7 about two weeks ago in Evanston, probably a good omen according to Taylor Thornton. It was NU's first game back after the Florida loss and the second time the Wildcats faced the Fighting Irish after losing to the No. 1-seeded Gators.
"Notre Dame is always a great opponent," Thornton said. "I think it definitely does [help that NU has played the Irish recently], because we know their actions and their tendencies. We feel no pressure at all."
Thornton, the American Lacrosse Conference Player of the Year, was named a finalist Thursday for the Tewaaraton Award given to the most outstanding player in men's and women's lacrosse. The junior defender from Dallas is among five finalists for the award, which will be announced May 31.
Thornton was named the 2011 National Defender of the Year and has scored 27 goals in 19 games for the Wildcats.
If the Wildcats beat Notre Dame, they will advance to the quarterfinals and play either Duke or Virginia at Lakeside Field.