Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Lacrosse: Perfection reigns supreme

With two matchups against top-20 opponents, Northwestern saw this weekend as a dress rehearsal for its national championship run. And if this weekend’s play was any indication, the team is well prepared to defend its titles.

The top-ranked Wildcats rallied to beat Johns Hopkins and destroyed North Carolina in a weekend that coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said presented its biggest test so far.

“On the whole, we treated this weekend like a Final Four,” Amonte Hiller said. “We needed to get through Friday if we wanted to make it to Sunday. And I think we did a nice job with it.”

After a weak start to the weekend, top-ranked NU, led by junior Hannah Nielsen’s 11 points, grabbed the momentum and swept both its games to remain undefeated.

The Cats (15-0) trailed at the half in Friday’s game against No. 17 Johns Hopkins (6-8) but surged late to record a 14-12 win.

“I think they decided to play and they got competitive and fought and played as a team and showed a lot of character,” Amonte Hiller said.

The Cats carried Friday’s intensity into Sunday’s match with No. 11 North Carolina (11-5), jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first four minutes and cruising to a 16-3 win, their 40th straight at home.

“There were things in the Hopkins game we weren’t doing what we would have liked,” Nielsen said. “Friday night was a bit of a wake-up call and we came out and everyone knew what they had to do and took it to UNC today.”

The win against UNC was especially sweet, as the Tar Heels were the last team to beat the Cats. Since that loss on Feb. 17, 2007, NU has won 36 straight games.

But the wins haven’t all been easy. Sometimes the Cats have had to play from behind, like they did in the win over Johns Hopkins.

Throughout the first half of Friday’s American Lacrosse Conference showdown, the Cats did not look like a team that had won three straight national championships.

NU had trouble clearing the ball from its zone and won only 50 percent of its draw controls, giving the Blue Jays more possessions and more time in Cats territory.

Johns Hopkins kept NU goalie Morgan Lathrop busy all night. The junior faced 14 shots in the first half, many on one-on-one chances.

But the Cats picked up momentum just nine seconds later when Casey Donohoe scored a goal right at the buzzer going into halftime.

“We were down by a couple by a couple of goals and I personally wasn’t playing well,” Donahoe said. “To get that momentum going into the second half it was important to be down two and not three. But we come out every game after halftime like the score is 0-0, whether we are down by two or up by 30.”

Led by Nielsen’s playmaking, the Cats started to win draw controls and scored six unanswered goals to take the lead for good. Nielsen finished the game with six points, including three goals.

The Cats brought that energy and more in Sunday’s matchup with the Tar Heels, as they came out ready to avenge last season’s 9-8 loss.

NU was led by Donohoe, who not only had her chance for revenge against the Tar Heels, but also had a chance to outplay her sister, Corey, who is UNC’s leading scorer.

And she did. Casey finished with three goals to her sister’s one.

The key to the Cats’ success on Sunday was its quick start. NU scored four times in the first six minutes and won six of eight draw controls in the first half.

The offense’s fast start rubbed off on the defense, which shut out the Tar Heels for the game’s first 37 minutes.

“If we are up by a good margin, the other team will want to score; they may force some shots and move a little too quick and make some mistakes,” Lathrop said. “It definitely works in our favor if we can get up by a little bit.”

Lathrop finished the game with eight saves on 15 shots. The junior recorded more saves than Claire Barnes, her UNC counterpart, even though she faced half as many shots.

Sunday was also Senior Day, and the Cats got strong play from their seniors, who have compiled a 77-2 record during their NU

career.

Senior Lindsay North, in only her seventh game this season, scored her first goal of the year in her final regular-season home game. It was a fitting end to Senior Day in a weekend where the Cats once again established they are the top team in the country.

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Lacrosse: Perfection reigns supreme