Wildcats Run Streak To 10 Wins (Women’s Lacrosse)

Wade Askew

By Wade AskewThe Daily Northwestern

No. 1 Northwestern approached its game against No. 8 Penn State as if it were the first game of Final Four weekend. If the real thing goes anything like Saturday’s contest, the Wildcats will be in good shape to complete a three-peat.

NU (10-1, 2-0 American Lacrosse Conference) dismantled conference rival Penn State (8-5, 0-2) 19-8 on a cool, cloudy day that figures to be a warm-up to NU’s game against No. 2 Maryland today.

But the Cats insist they were not looking ahead to their contest against the Terrapins, using the Final Four metaphor to keep them motivated.

“We go in with the mindset that if we don’t win the first game, we won’t get on to the second,” sophomore Hilary Bowen said. “We all just came in really focused on playing our best game and being able to move on.”

NU came out firing in the first half with an astounding 28 shots to Penn State’s 10. The disparity in shots was largely due to the fact that the Cats dominated draws 12-6 in the half.

Still, the Nittany Lions found themselves down only two after 18 minutes of play, as they rode the performance of goalie Cammie Jurkowsky, who had 10 first-half saves. But Bowen sparked a 9-0 run that extended into the second half when she scored with 11:25 remaining in the first to give NU a 7-4 lead.

The game was virtually out of reach by halftime with the Wildcats leading 13-4.

Meredith Frank and Bowen led all scorers with four goals apiece. The two sophomores are the leading scorers on the team with 32 and 30 goals, respectively. Frank added to her personal streak of tallying at least one point in all 32 games of her career.

Hannah Nielsen distributed a career-high five assists, continuing her record-setting pace for assists in a season. Having switched positions from midfield to attack in the offseason, Nielsen has assumed a leadership role running the offense from behind the goal.

“I have a great time back there,” Nielsen said of her new position. “This year it just gives me a lot more confidence to be able to have the ball a lot of the game. So I just have fun with it and just pump it in when (my teammates) are open.”

Both Nielsen and Bowen have become increasingly comfortable running the offense from their positions behind the goal, Amonte Hiller said. Against Penn State, they were able to control the game’s tempo, pushing the ball at times and slowing it down at others.

“At the beginning of the year both Hilary and Hannah were just kind of getting their feet wet,” Amonte Hiller said. “Now … they know the system that we play in, and they’re really doing a great job at leading out there.”

The pair also helped limit NU to just five total turnovers, four less than Penn State had in the first half alone.

Now the Cats look to complete their “Final Four weekend” with a win over Amonte Hiller’s alma mater, Maryland. She said her ties to Maryland “add fuel to the fire,” but NU likely won’t need the added motivation.

“It’s going to be like a championship game,” Nielsen said.

Reach Wade Askew at [email protected]