Kjellman Takes Over In Physical Win (Women’s Lacrosse)

Wade Askew

By Wade AskewThe Daily Northwestern

It took Kristen Kjellman a mere 20 seconds to remind the nation why she is the reigning national player of the year against No. 2 Maryland on Monday.

With her team clinging to a 7-6 lead after Maryland’s Dana Dobbie scored to open the second half, Kjellman decided it was her time to take over. Throughout the season the senior has been unselfish, serving as the glue of the team by doing whatever it needed from her.

But with 26 minutes remaining against the Terrapins, what her team needed was a goal.

Kjellman scored on a free position shot with 25:52 remaining, and 20 seconds later she beat her defender one-on-one to put the No. 1 Wildcats up 9-6.

The goals ignited a 5-0 NU run and killed the momentum – and seemingly the will – of Maryland.

“That’s what my team needed me to do at the time – to score a couple goals. So that’s where I tried to step up,” Kjellman said. “In games where we’re scoring a lot and we just need ground balls, that’s what I’ll do. It’s just kind of trying to do whatever I can to help at whatever moment.”

Kjellman finished with three goals, one assist and seven ground balls, three more than any other player.

Meredith Frank’s interception of a Maryland pass with 2:30 remaining sealed a 12-7 victory for the Cats (11-1), as the Terps (13-2) did not possess the ball again.

If Kjellman was the offensive MVP, then goalie Morgan Lathrop was her defensive counterpart.

Lathrop saved NU from what could have been a disastrous start, tallying five saves in the first four minutes of the contest. She finished with 14 saves after facing 35 Maryland shots in what coach Kelly Amonte Hiller called a clutch performance.

“If I’m standing back over the restraining line and I see her have all these huge saves, it definitely pumps us up,” sophomore attacker Hannah Nielsen said. “It makes the attackers want to play for the defense.”

Despite Maryland’s opening barrage, NU ran out to a 3-0 lead and did not allow the Terps to score in the first eight minutes. Dobbie then scored the first of her two goals and set the tone for a tight, physical contest.

Maryland’s stout man-to-man defense, combined with NU’s aggressive play on both sides of the ball, resulted in a total of 54 fouls in the game, including 30 against NU.

“This was the most physical game I’ve played in a long time,” senior Aly Josephs said. “I think this is definitely the best man, one-v-one defense we’ve played.”

Neither side seemed to be happy with the referees’ calls as a mixed chorus of boos and cheers answered nearly every whistle.

Amonte Hiller was especially animated midway through the second half, at one point shedding two layers of jackets while arguing a call with the referees.

“Our kids played their hearts out, and it was despite what was called on the field,” Amonte Hiller said. “We got roughed up here and there, and the girls took it well. We did everything we needed to control that game.

“We know we need to overcome adversity, and today I think some of that was with the calls.”

In the end Amonte Hiller said she was happy to beat her alma mater and former teammate, Maryland head coach Cathy Reese, and pick up the Cats’ 11th straight win.

It was Reese who perhaps summed up the game best, recounting Kjellman’s dominating stretch that changed the complexion of the game.

“Lacrosse is a game of momentum swings,” Reese said. “(Kjellman) did have a couple huge goals. She’s a great player, and when it came down to it, she wanted the ball in her stick and was able to take it to and put it in the goal.”

Reach Wade Askew at [email protected]