Women’s Lacrosse: Spencer, No. 1 NU stand tall

Brian Regan

Choosing a college is no easy task, especially for a highly touted lacrosse recruit. But for Danielle Spencer, the choice was easy. Her best friend from high school, Hilary Bowen, committed to play for Northwestern, and in the spring of her junior year she watched the Wildcats win their first national title.

“When they won, it was an easy decision,” Spencer said. “If they hadn’t won, I still would have leaned there because of Hilary, but that really sealed the deal. I want to play at the best place I can and this is obviously the best.”

Now the 6-foot sophomore attacker is leading the charge on NU’s offense alongside Bowen, her teammate at Brighton High School in Rochester, N.Y., adding firepower to an already explosive unit.

“(Spencer) is just so powerful,” junior midfielder Hannah Nielsen said. “I don’t think there is anyone out there who can stop her at full speed with the ball.”

Although Spencer is head and shoulders above the competition, as well as her own team, being tall does have its drawbacks.

“Height is a bonus factor on attack and the draw,” Spencer said, “but defensively my feet aren’t as quick, and that’s something I’ve had to work on. It’s hard for me when I go one way to recover than it is for smaller girls. I have to get extra low to be in the same realm as other girls.”

Spencer has scored in all 10 of the Cats’ games this season and is second on the team in goals scored behind Bowen with 33. She is also tied for first on the team in draw controls with 30.

Spencer’s improvement this season has been the result of hard work and increased playing time.

“I think she is so much more confident and aggressive this year and is one of the hardest workers on the team,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “She has done a lot outside of practice to make herself better and taken a lot of responsibility to do that.”

After coming off the bench in 17 games last season to finish with 11 goals, Spencer said she wanted to use her freshman season as a “dress rehearsal” for this season.

Spencer eclipsed her goal total from last year in three games, notching her 12th score at Hofstra on February 26. She is quickly emerging as one of the top offensive threats in the country.

It has not always been this easy for the sophomore. Spencer had to overcome a debilitating hip fracture the spring of her senior year of high school.

“I was out all summer,” Spencer said. “Coming into the school year, October was the first time I had jogged in months. I was just getting my feet under me last spring when I had to adjust to the college game, which surprised me with its pace and roughness.”

Spencer will look to continue her strong start when the Cats take the field against Duke in Durham, N.C., on Sunday. Because of her limited role last season, partially due to injury and partially to youth, Spencer’s emergence has been a surprise to some teams.

“At the beginning of the season nobody really expected Danielle to do what she is doing, and now people are starting to have to worry about her, which is good for us because it opens up things for our middies and Hannah and Hilary,” Amonte Hiller said. “When she’s aggressive we tend to do really well on offense.”

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