Cats garner first-ever No. 1 ranking

Nina Mandell

In a sport in which East Coast schools like Princeton and Virginia are the perennial queens, no Midwestern team has ever achieved a No. 1 ranking.

But as the only undefeated team left in the top 20, Northwestern (8-0, 1-0 ALC) earned the top ranking in the International Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association poll — and some respect for the Midwest.

Senior goalie Meredith Philipp, who came to NU from the East Coast, said the program’s unlikely success gave the team some recognition back in her home state of Maryland.

“People never really thought (NU) would be a really good program,” Philipp said. “It was a big surprise and really rewarding to know that in the four years I’ve been here we made it to No. 1.”

This is the first time a team from NU has been at the top of a national poll since men’s golf was No. 1 during the 2000 season. This is also the first time a team from outside the Eastern time zone has made it to No. 1 on the lacrosse chart.

NU coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said Penn State’s upsets of top teams contributed to the Cats’ ranking, but she credits her players’ willingness to work and improve with the team’s success.

None of the their opponents in the past two weeks have come close to upsetting the top-ranked Cats.

NU has outscored its opponents 61-35 in its past four games.

On Thursday, New Hampshire was the first team that had a lead on NU since its season opener.

But it took fewer than two minutes of trailing for junior midfielder Lindsey Munday to spark the offense. She scored one of her five goals on the day to lead the Cats to a 14-9 win against New Hampshire.

Munday has led the Cats in scoring with four or more goals in the Cats’ last six games. She is generating more offensive production than she did last season, according to Hiller.

“She’s just a complete player,” Hiller said. “There are a lot of great one-on-one players, but it’s not often when you see a great one-on-one player that can pass. No one can stop her.”

The Cats were ahead 4-0 in the first eight minutes of the match before New Hampshire went on a 5-1 run in the last ten minutes of the half.

New Hampshire took the lead in the second half to give NU the the closest game it had since the season opener.

But the Cats ended the match with an 8-1 scoring run to remain undefeated — a win that Hiller said was more satisfying than the double-digit wins the team has enjoyed in the past.

“Definitely people are gunning for us now more than ever,” Hiller said. “It was nice to have a game where we really had to fight back to help prepare us for next week.”

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