Woman of the Year: Nielsen passes torch

Danny Daly

It would probably be easier to list all the things Hannah Nielsen hasn’t done on a lacrosse field than to spell out all of her accomplishments. Nielsen owns two Tewaaraton trophies (the college lacrosse equivalent of the MVP award), the NCAA Division-I career and single-game assists records, the Northwestern points record and … well, you get the idea.

This past season, Nielsen led the Wildcats to their fifth consecutive national title and fourth in her four-year career. She earns The Daily’s Woman of the Year award for the second time, not just because of her talents on the field, but because of the way she stepped up and kept the Wildcats’ perfect season intact when sidekick Hilary Bowen was injured.

Moments into NU’s 12th game, Bowen’s knee buckled while she was making a cut. Bowen was the Cats’ top offensive threat, netting 81 goals her junior year and scoring at an even greater clip until that point in 2009.

But Nielsen made sure the team hardly missed a beat-the Cats won all eight games with Bowen on the sidelines, including a huge victory to close the regular season against Pennsylvania. Bowen returned for the NCAA quarterfinals, and Nielsen set a tournament record with 16 assists in four games.

The Adelaide, Australia native had so many defining moments that it’s hard to pinpoint her best one. She had 10 assists in a game against Duquesne early in her senior season and scored a goal with 91 seconds remaining to give the Cats a thrilling 11-10 win on the road versus Virginia a few weeks later. In the second half of a game against Penn State, Nielsen helped NU put the game out of reach by coming up with seven draw controls.

Perhaps no play was as appropriate as her last assist donning the purple and white, when she set up Bowen for her fifth and final goal in the 21-7 championship game rout of North Carolina.

Nielsen certainly had some competition from her fellow female athletes for Woman of the Year. Maria Mosolova, now a junior, was the top-ranked singles player in the nation for much of last year.

Shortstop Tammy Williams was one of the 10 finalists for USA Softball Collegiate player of the year, and center Amy Jaeschke was the first Cat in more than a decade to be named Big Ten Player of the Week for women’s basketball. A number of Nielsen’s teammates