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: Wildcats win fourth consecutive title

TOWSON, Md. – Four years, four championships.

With one more historic win Sunday in the NCAA title game, Northwestern’s five seniors finished off one of the most remarkable runs in college sports.

Led by defender Christy Finch, the class of 2008 goes out as the winningest group in Wildcats history. In its four years, the team won four national championships, won 83 of its 86 games and never lost at home.

“For in a row – it’s a great feeling,” NU coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “Penn gave us an incredible game. They are such a strong team. But our girls showed some poise and brought it home. I really have no words.”

NU defeated Syracuse 16-8 in Friday’s semifinal match, paving the way for a rematch with the Quakers, who handed the Cats their only loss of the season on April 27.

Amonte Hiller has been reserved all season when describing her team, but after Sunday’s win, she came as close to boasting as she could. When asked about this team being a dynasty, Amonte Hiller, who talked with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick before the game, didn’t want say that explicitly.

“I’m not going to say that,” she said, “but if you guys want to, I’d be okay with it.”The 10-6 win over Penn Sunday gave Amonte Hiller her sixth career NCAA crown, two as a player at Maryland and four as coach at NU.

But capturing a fourth-straight title was not as easy as NU made it look.Faced with two very different opponents, the Cats responded to each challenge and emerged victorious. Syracuse featured the nation’s leading scorer in Katie Rowan, while Penn had the nation’s top goalie, Sarah Waxman.

Against the Orange on Friday, NU outgunned the most potent offensive in NCAA history with a burst of second-half scoring, while sophomore Maggie Bremer held the dynamic Rowan without a point.

Sunday, it was goalie Morgan Lathrop’s 11 saves that won the day. Waxman allowed a season-worst 10 goals against the Cats.

“Obviously Waxman’s a great goalie and she made some great plays today, ” junior midfielder Hannah Nielsen said. “But in the second half we came out and threw a few fakes and got the ball around her.”

Nielsen finished the weekend with three goals and seven assists, including two late goals to assure NU’s win over Penn.

Six players scored in the Sunday’s final, including rare goals by Finch and Towson native Meghan Plunkett. Finch had scored just nine goals in 85 career games, but put a goal past Waxman to give the Cats an 8-3 lead in the middle of the second half.

“I don’t know where (her goal) came from,” Finch said. “I tried to get it around her and it just went in.”

The goal was Finch’s second of the season and Plunkett scored her third goal in front of her hometown.

Even with superlative individual performances from Finch and junior attack Hilary Bowen, who tied the NCAA record with 17 goals in the tournament, the Cats’ real strength was their superior teamwork.

“Kelly said before the game that we were all going to have to contribute and really play a team game, and that is exactly what we did,” Bowen said. “Everyone did their part, and that’s what led us to the championship.”

When Lathrop struggled against Syracuse, her defense kept balls from coming her way, and the Cats kept possession away from the Orange.

“I didn’t have my best game on Friday, ” Lathrop said. “But I didn’t really need to because everyone else on the field was so awesome.”

Lathrop’s performance Sunday more than made up for Friday’s debacle in net. Her 11 saves were a season high, and several were worthy of a highlight reel. Just before halftime, Penn’s Rachel Manson received a free position shot and went low to Lathrop’s left. Unfortunately for the Quakers, Lathrop reacted in time and deflected the ball away to maintain the Cats’ 5-2 advantage.

In the end, the Cats proved to be too much for a Penn team that faced its largest deficit of the season and was only able to cut NU’s lead to two before fading late.With less than 20 seconds left and the Penn threat thwarted, the team began to celebrate on the field as Bowen held up four fingers to her teammates, one for each championship.

A strong NU team will only be stronger next season. The Cats lose only two starters from this year’s team and return their top 10 scorers. Lathrop, Nielsen and Bowen all return, as does junior Meredith Frank, who should be fully recovered from tearing her Achilles’ tendon last fall.

Added to the mix will be Frank’s younger sister, Alex, along with four other high school All-Americans, potentially setting the stage for the Cats’ next title in 2009.”We are excited about our players coming back and the freshman class coming in,” Amonte Hiller said, “Hopefully the future is bright.”

Let the drive for five begin.

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Related Links

Un-four-gettable: Lacrosse captures fourth-straight national championship

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FOUR!!!!: Cats hold off Penn 10-6 to win NCAA title

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Rise of a dynasty: NU one win away from fourth-straight title

On to the finals: Second-half spurt helps Cats down Syracuse 16-8

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Lacrosse: Wildcats win fourth consecutive title