Midwest Kings Slay Knights (Women’s Lacrosse)

Wade Askew

By Wade AskewThe Daily Northwestern

Spend a minute with a Northwestern lacrosse player and the word “aggressive” is bound to come up.

The team’s most popular buzzword propelled No. 1 NU (13-1) to yet another easy victory over a top-20 team, this time a 15-4 victory over No. 18 Rutgers (12-4). It was NU’s 13th straight win and 27th consecutive at home. Rutgers was the 10th ranked opponent NU defeated this season.

Junior defender Christy Finch spoke of defensive aggressiveness after the game, which helped force 26 Rutgers turnovers. Finch caused a game-high six turnovers and scooped nine ground balls. She entered the game ranked fifth nationally in forced turnovers.

NU’s defense constantly double teams whoever has the ball on offense, a high-risk, high-reward strategy that has paid large dividends.

“With all the pressure, a lot of teams get flustered by it, and therefore we can cause a lot of turnovers,” Finch said. “It takes a lot of risk, but that’s what our team is based on … (Lindsay Finocchiaro) and Annie (Elliott) do a real good job of helping us and making sure that we have someone to cover us when we double.”

It also helps that Morgan Lathrop, who leads the nation in save percentage (.602) and goals-against average (5.64), erases many of the mistakes the defense makes.

The offense also preaches aggressiveness.

NU outshot Rutgers 33-20, including 19-8 in the first half. After the Cats came out of the gates slow, sophomore attacker Hilary Bowen scored to put the Cats up 2-1 with 16:11 remaining in the first half. That goal ignited a 9-0 run and was the first of Bowen’s three.

“If you’re always aggressive, whether you get to goal or not you’re going to attract defenders and you can dish off the pass or something,” Bowen said. “So I just thought about that and I was like, ‘well, you know, we’ve got to get something started out here.'”

Senior midfielder Kristen Kjellman and sophomore attacker Hannah Nielsen also tallied hat tricks. Kjellman, Nielsen and sophomore Meredith Frank were recently named among the 17 finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy, which Kjellman won last year as the country’s top player.

Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller showcased some of NU’s younger talent Monday – possible future finalists for the Tewaaraton award – because of their aggressiveness.

Danielle Spencer, a six-foot freshman from Rochester, N.Y., earned early playing time after impressing Amonte Hiller late against Johns Hopkins on Friday.

Fellow New Yorker, freshman Katrina Dowd, who has played regularly all year, tied her season-high with two goals against Rutgers.

“Danielle’s been showing a lot of aggressiveness, and she’s really tough to stop because of her size,” Amonte Hiller said. “Katrina, I think, has been playing a lot this season, but we’ve been urging her to be a little bit more aggressive offensively. (Come) tournament time, those are the types of players that make the difference for you, because everyone’s going to be keying in on Kjellman and Nielsen, Frank and Bowen and Aly Josephs.”

NU will now prepare to close out the season against conference foe Ohio State on Friday and Hofstra on Sunday before heading to the ALC tournament, which begins May 3 in Baltimore.

Reach Wade Askew at [email protected]