NU set to rekindle rivalry with No. 4 Duke (Lacrosse)

Steve Silver

A No. 1 ranking, a perfect record and a 31-game win streak all mean nothing entering into this weekend’s contest with No. 4 Duke.

In a clash of lacrosse giants, NU represents the new, Midwestern face of the sport. However, Duke has a storied history and seeks to bring a national title back to the East Coast.

“It’s a big game, huge game,” junior attacker Aly Josephs said. Josephs, who notched six goals and two assists against then-No. 13 Syracuse and UConn, is currently ranked 26th in the nation in goals per game, averaging 2.8. “I think they’re definitely going to be gunning for us.”

Duke slipped from second to fourth in the national rankings after losing to then-No. 4 Virginia 11-10 last weekend.

Before making an appearance in the Final Four last year, Duke fell to NU during the regular season in Evanston 16-11. The veteran Wildcats know that their win last year has impacted the Blue Devils.

“They are definitely going to come out really strong,” junior midfielder Kristen Kjellman, currently averaging 5.1 points per game, good for fifth nationally. “They are ready to get us back after last year. But this year is completely different. We are a whole new team with many different faces.”

Last year Kjellman was the runner-up to Duke’s Katie Chrest for the Tewaaraton Trophy, awarded to the best lacrosse player in the nation. Chrest, fourteenth in the nation with 3.1 goals per game, leads a potent Blue Devil offense that has outscored opponents 144-81 this season.

“We will look to contain some of their offensive powers,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “They have a lot of weapons on their attack. We have been improving each game defensively though. We’re tenacious and we’re excited about the team defense we’re going to play this weekend.”

The Cats will fly to Durham, N.C., today in preparation for their 6 p.m match-up with Duke on Friday.

Freshmen EMERGE

One group of Cats without any prior experience in this rivalry is hoping to leave their own impression on the game – the freshmen.

Freshmen midfielders Hilary Bowen, Meredith Frank and Hannah Nielson have combined for 27 goals and 19 assists this season.

“A lot of the time, the match-ups go against the veterans.” Amonte Hiller said. “Other teams are worrying about picking up the Kristen Kjellmans and the Lindsay Mundays. That really leaves a lot of room for these younger players to step up. They’ve been doing a great job converting their opportunities.”

Kjellman said she has noticed in an improvement in the offense as a whole with the freshmen’s ability to contribute in big games.

Defensively, the Cats have been anchored by freshman goalie Morgan Lathrop. Lathrop is 9-0 as a starter and is ninth in the nation with a goals against average of 7.7.

“(The freshmen) are a really tight group,” Nielson said. “It’s been fun to get out there and do what we can to help out the team. There is no talk of classes with this team. (The upperclassmen) have treated us as equals. They don’t even feel like the older girls because they have been really supportive and made us feel really comfortable.”

Reach Steve Silver at [email protected]