Dynamic Offense Leads Way For Wildcats Again

Wade Askew

By Wade AskewThe Daily Northwestern

Northwestern’s 19 goals against Holy Cross were about what most people expected, but the way it scored those goals was slightly different than usual.

Normally NU can rely on the passing of sophomore attacker Hannah Nielsen, who holds the school record in assists for a season, along with the cutting of her teammates to carry the offense. But with Nielsen tossing “only” two assists, part of a team total of seven, the offense had to rely more on one-on-one dodging.

Thanks to the flexibility and recognition of the NU offense, the adjustment was smooth and effective. It also gave speedy senior Aly Josephs, who thrives in dodging situations, a chance to showcase her talent.

“We saw that the cuts weren’t working, we needed different looks, so that’s when I decided to go hard to goal,” Josephs said. “Everyone and I relayed the message that maybe one-on-ones would be a little more effective since our cutting wasn’t as good as today. I just think that when the cuts aren’t there, you need to think of some other things to do to be effective.”

Hannah Nielsen similarly described that the offense resolved to take what the defense gave them: If passes were open, they would have passed, and if the passing lanes were shut off, they would dodge.

Such a seemingly simple recognition and adjustment is part of what has made the NU offense the top-scoring group in the nation. The Cats have the ability to attack from any direction and from a variety of ways, but without the mental recognition and communication necessary to do so, that ability would go unused.

The players have earned the trust of coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, who regularly receives input from her players during games. While the NU coaching staff still calls its fair share of plays, the offense has a large amount of freedom and flexibility.

“We try to give our girls as much freedom as possible – if they see things on the field they’re communicating to the coaching staff, who’s calling the plays in,” Amonte Hiller said. “It’s a good give-and-take relationship, and I really respect their feedback on the field. And I think that’s been one of the keys to our success the past several years, is just knowing what’s working and what’s not.”

Despite the one-on-one nature of NU’s offense against Holy Cross, production was spread across amongst nine different scorers, seven of which tallied two or more goals. Also, five different players had one assist to complement Nielsen’s two. Josephs, senior Kristen Kjellman and sophomore Meredith Frank led the Cats with with three goals and an assist each.

That scoring balance is what Amonte Hiller believes will carry the offense through the tournament.

“We can’t go out there and expect for one or two players to do well and us be successful,” Amonte Hiller said. “At this stage of the game, in these tournament situations, we need everyone to step up and everyone to do things.”

Reach Wade Askew at [email protected]