Forman: Lakeside lacrosse, the ultimate home-field advantage

Matt Forman

The Cats have won 46 consecutive games at Lakeside Field. Matt Forman/The Daily Northwestern

When most people think of home-field advantage, they think of an enormous stadium that houses thousands of rabid fans. The Boston Garden. The Swamp at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Ohio Stadium.

Not many think of Lakeside Field: a lacrosse field, albeit gorgeous, that seats just 2,000 people.

After Northwestern’s 24-1 thrashing of Rutgers on Saturday, sports fans should.

The Wildcats have won 46 consecutive games in their friendly confines. Since the venue opened in late 2007, the team has not lost at home. Over the last five seasons, NU has compiled a 91-3 record, with each of its losses coming on the road.

The Cats won their home opener on Thursday in dominating fashion 20-6. In its first two games in Evanston, NU has outscored its opponents by a combined score of 44-7.

Opponents not only face the challenge of traveling to the Midwest to face the top-ranked, four-time defending national champions. They face an NU squad that takes pride in protecting its house.

“What makes it so difficult is that we love playing here,” senior Hannah Nielsen said.

And opponents hate it. With ice lining the lake, winds persisting at 10 miles per hour and temperatures dipping below 40 degrees, lacrosse looks nothing like a spring sport.

“We’re used to practicing out in this everyday, so we make it a non-factor,” senior Hilary Bowen said. “It’s a little intimidating to come in here.”

All despite the fact that when opponents see the Cats on their schedule, they circle that game as their national championship.

It’s a world of difference from NU’s other top sports. Ryan Field is routinely more than half-filled with colors other than purple.Visiting fans’ cheers echo from rafters of the upper-deck, largely eliminating the cries of the student section at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Even in a relatively unknown sport, with a small regional following, something is different about lacrosse.

“The people that are into lacrosse here come to the games and that makes a big difference for us,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “The girls get fired up to play for them.”

After starting the season with five road games, NU will play four of its next five at home. Only three of the Cats’ remaining regular season games will be played on the road.

Looking in the magic eight-ball, all signs points to “yes” for the Cats ending their Drive for Five successfully. And why shouldn’t it continue beyond 2009?

A beautiful facility where a team doesn’t lose results in better recruiting. Better recruiting results in better play on the field. Better play on the field results in national championship after national championship and a stronger fan following.

How much better does it get? NU has the ultimate advantage.

Deputy sports editor Matt Forman is a Medill sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]