Forman: One and done does not fit NU

Matt Forman

Yes, the Wildcats went undefeated in the regular season.

Yes, the Cats have won four consecutive national championships.

Yes, they have won 16 consecutive games in the postseason under coach Kelly Amonte Hiller.

Still, in Sunday’s matchup with Massachusetts, Northwestern knew one thing – in postseason play, it’s one and done.

That’s why senior midfielder Hannah Nielsen stressed to her teammates before the game that they had to play a complete 60 minutes.

“I think all of the older players let the younger players know what tournament is all about,” Nielsen said. “No matter who were playing, UMass or anybody, you have to play a full game and anything can happen.”

For freshmen Shannon Smith, Alexandra Frank and Lacey Vigmostad, it was their first postseason appearance, and they weren’t going to let that “anything” happen.

“I’m just happy we got better than the Penn State game, our last game,” Amonte Hiller said. “That’s really the goal for us, we want to be better against Princeton.”

That’s what experience does for a team – knowing that it’s not about posting a dominating 23-6 victory. It can’t be quantified in numbers or statistics, it’s simply knowing within how the team played.

For Massachusetts coach Alexis Venechanos, the former NU assistant who took the Minutewomen to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 25 years, the approach was much different.

“We wanted to beat them,” Venechanos said. “I’m disappointed that our team is going home. But it starts with baby steps, and this team took a huge step. It all has to start somewhere, you’ve got to jog before you can run.”

Venechanos wanted to pull off the improbable upset. She wanted to make a splash in her first postseason appearance, and NU wouldn’t let it happen.

More impressive, though, was NU’s consistency despite inconsistency. A month-and-a-half after beating Massachusetts 22-5 in the regular season, the Cats beat the Minutewomen by the same 17-goal margin. The game in late March featured three-goal performances by senior Hilary Bowen and junior Danielle Spencer, to go along with four from Nielsen. This time around, 10 different players found the back of the net, highlighted by a seven-goal showing by junior Katrina Dowd.

Very little changed in the Cats’ approach from the regular season matchup. The intensity was the same. The quick-strike ability and fast-paced attack was the same.

The only thing that changed was that NU knew its opponent would bring everything it had, and Massachusetts did. That will be the case for the remainder of the NCAA tournament. But NU had a resounding answer, and in the process, sent a message to the rest of the field.

Yes, Maryland, the second overall seed in the tournament, made a statement by beating Colgate, 20-5, in its first round matchup – announced at halftime of Sunday’s contest.

Yes, Maryland went undefeated in the regular season, too, and turned down an offer to play NU in the regular season to avoid showing its offensive and defensive sets.

Yes, Maryland wants to end NU’s run of four consecutive national championships, to protect its own dynasty of seven straight titles.

Still, NU has a plan of its own. The Cats want to give the Terps company.

And that’s why Nielsen gave that message to her teammates. After all, she’s never had to deal with the implications of one and done. Why should it change now?

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