Notebook: Shoring up the defense

Jimmy Mitchell

TOWSON, Md. – Northwestern’s junior goalkeeper Morgan Lathrop could be seen working extensively in the cage Saturday after recording only two saves on 10 shots on goal in Friday’s semifinal against Syracuse.

After getting her stick on only one of seven shots in the first period, Lathrop met with assistant coach Scott Hiller at halftime to correct some of her early mistakes.

Lathrop allowed only two goals in the second half out of only four Syracuse shot attempts in the final 30 minutes.

Lathrop’s job became “a lot easier,” she said.

“I didn’t have to do much in the second half, which was nice,” she said. “A boring game means the rest of my team is playing amazing. It’s the best case scenario if I don’t have to do much back there.”

Lathrop’s defense forced Syracuse into seven turnovers in the second half and helped NU’s offense hold on to the ball for the majority of the period.

“We always say our best defense is our offense, and that was the case yesterday, ” she said. “(Syracuse) didn’t even have the ball. They were frustrated and forced some shots.”

END OF AN ERA

Sunday’s national championship game against Penn will be senior defender and captain Christy Finch’s last game as a Wildcat.

“It’s kind of weird to think about that,” she said. “I’m just excited to have one last opportunity and to try for a national championship.”

If NU wins Sunday, it will be four championships in four years for Finch. But the senior was quick to point to the variety of experiences she’s had playing for the Cats.

“Every year’s a new year,” she said. “My freshman year, I was excited to play college lacrosse and see what I was into and try to give everything I had.

“Our team this year has been a really tight-knit group. We’re really young, we’re really excited to be here. That freshness really brings a lot to our team.”

An opportunity to defeat Penn, the team that broke the Cats’ 36-game winning streak, is exactly what Finch was looking for in her last game.

“We were kind of excited when (Penn) won,” Finch said. “We’re excited to play them again since we lost to them a month ago. We feel like we’ve improved a lot.”

EXPERIENCED BOWEN EXCELLING

Junior attacker Hilary Bowen is well on her way to her second consecutive NCAA tournament MVP award.

With a game-high six goals Friday, Bowen became the scoring leader of the tournament with an average of 4.67 goals per game.

Her impressive 2008 performance has mirrored her play in last year’s tournament, where she led the Cats with a five-goal performance in the championship game.

“I love it,” Bowen said of playing in the tournament. “This is what we prepare all season for. This is what we live for in lacrosse.”

Playing in their fourth NCAA tournament in four years has given the Cats an advantage, Bowen said.

“You have a little mental edge being here before,” she said. “I just think about my first year, how nervous I was, excited to be here but nervous at the same time. I obviously still get nervous going into these situations, but you just have to go out there and play your hardest.”

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