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: Loss behind them, No. 1 Cats refocus

The loss to fifth-ranked Pennsylvania over the weekend may have removed the “undefeated” tag from Northwestern, but it sent the team back to the practice field with a focus: to stay competitive for the entire game.

“We got out-worked by Penn,” junior Hannah Nielsen said. “We got beat at our own game, and they just worked harder than us. But from here on out, we know it is going to take a lot of hard work to get to where we need to be.”

Nielsen’s statement may sound like resignation, but the Wildcats are no strangers to hard work – as illustrated by a visit to practice last week, pre-Penn.

NU showed how its intensity didn’t stop after a blowout win against North Carolina, but parleys into practice – even routine drills.

Players such as Nielsen and junior Meghan Plunkett showcased their competitive fire by imagining high-pressure scenarios, such as a draw control in the World Cup final, in the middle of a simple throwing exercise.

Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller’s values of hard work and motivation have been drilled hard into her players, from the seniors down to the freshmen.

The preparation that goes into the practices is part of the reason the team has been so successful, despite its recent hiccup against Penn.

“We try to build confidence with teaching, positive feedback and the fact we have confidence as a staff helps,” Amonte Hiller said last Wednesday. “We reinforce that our confidence comes from our preparation and not anything else.”

That confidence can be seen from the second the players walked onto the field for practice.

The fact it was sunny and above 50 degrees acted only as a bonus for the Cats. They quickly started to stretch and began to warmup their stick-work.

When the team broke into two lines to practice passing and draw controls, the light-hearted banter made it seem as far from work as possible.

But beneath the smiles and laughter, there is sweat and chastising when someone drops an easy pass.

“We try to find ways to individually do better, and we also push our teammates really hard to do better,” senior defender Christy Finch said Wednesday. “We want to get the best out of them and make them do things they didn’t think they could do before.”

After the passing drill and the draw control drill, the team reassembled and joined Amonte Hiller in a circle for some mental conditioning.

The players imagined where they wanted to be and had some quiet time, which was the only prolonged silence in the two-and-a-half hour practice.

But the intensity was quickly turned back up, as team broke up into several units to practice shooting, defense and set plays.

While all drills emphasize a goal the coaches are trying to get across, the coaching staff’s ability to keep its players excited and challenged is a constant problem.

“(The coaches) are so innovative and great at what they do,” junior Hilary Bowen said Wednesday. “They live for lacrosse and come up with ways they can get the point across in a fun way, and that is what makes practice so great. It never gets boring, it never gets dull and it is always competitive.”

The competition between players was taken to the next level during a scrimmage, where the backups provided more resistance to the Cats’ starters than several of their opponents have.

“Sometimes you forget what you have at home,” Amonte Hiller said Wednesday. “We have a special opportunity right in the practice setting, and we need to enjoy it and take advantage of it.”

The scout team can push the Cats, but they also show why the ‘A’ team is so good when its back is against the wall.

After falling behind 3-1, the starters got a boost from their defense and the team came back to win. With vocal leaders in defenders like Finch and Caroline Tesar and goalie Morgan Lathrop, the midfielders and attack always get an earful of reinforcement, which has become even more important since Sunday’s loss.

“Now we have to react and come out hard in every practice,” Nielsen said. “The philosophy now is hard work and positivity. We can’t just talk about it any more. We need to put it into action.”

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Lacrosse: Loss behind them, No. 1 Cats refocus