By Wade AskewThe Daily Northwestern
Only Northwestern can make two record-setting performances in one weekend look ordinary.
In a 21-5 win over No. 17 Ohio State (9-6, 1-3 American Lacrosse Conference), senior midfielder Kristen Kjellman tied the school record for career goals with her 228th. Meanwhile, sophomore attacker Hannah Nielsen tied a school record with seven assists in the contest.
The win gave the Wildcats their third-straight outright ALC regular season crown.
Just two days later, Kjellman tied a season-high with six goals to move into sole possession of the scoring record while Nielsen again dished seven assists. The duo led the No. 1 Wildcats (15-1, 4-0) to an easy 16-4 win over Hofstra.
After Friday, Kjellman simply said “it’s nice” of the record, and two days later she was just glad to have it behind her.
Nielsen was equally nonchalant about her two record-setting days. While NU coach Kelly Amonte Hiller suggested that she set the record because her father from Australia was in attendance, Nielsen didn’t even know about the record until she was told by a reporter. Later, she would call the two games “two lucky days.”
“It’s a lot of credit to all the cutters and my other attackers to get open for me,” Nielsen said. “They do half the work, I do half the work of putting it in their stick. … I was just having fun passing to them, and that’s just a bonus that I got the record.”
If nothing else, Nielsen is a cutter’s best friend. Against Hofstra, four of Kjellman’s six goals came from Nielsen.
Sophomore attacker Hilary Bowen, who plays with Nielsen behind the net, also appreciates Nielsen’s passing ability even though she is less often a beneficiary of it.
“She can pinpoint passes where I don’t even know where they come from, and I’m like ‘how did she get it there?'” Bowen said. “She’s amazing – I love playing behind the net with her.”
Equally important against Ohio State was the domination the Cats enjoyed on draw controls. NU held a 25-3 advantage on draws, which resulted in a 45-12 advantage in shots.
All of those opportunities have the offense looking to become more creative. Led by Kjellman with 50, the Cats have five scorers with at least 36 goals. That offensive diversity is not only hard to stop, but it also allows the team to play with less structure at times.
“I try to give these girls a lot of freedom because they’re so strong that I trust them to make good decisions on the field,” Amonte Hiller said.
Bowen and the offense enjoy the freedom, and also believe that it makes them more difficult to defend.
“We’ve got our plays down pretty well, we know the motion of our offense, we know what each player’s strengths are, what they like to do,” Bowen said. “So we’re just trying to add in some creativity to that … just to keep the other team on their toes.”
The two blowout wins give NU even more momentum heading into the ALC conference tournament next weekend in Baltimore. The Cats have won 15 straight after losing the season opener to North Carolina and are looking to win six more.
“That was our goal,” Amonte Hiller said. “We wanted to come into this weekend and gain more and more momentum.”
Reach Wade Askew at [email protected]