Walfish: Northwestern’s spring sports awakening

Josh Walfish and Josh Walfish

I feel bad for the spring sports.

With all the focus on campus going to football and men’s basketball in the fall and winter, spring can be seen as nothing more than a break from the perennial disappointment the two teams bring. However, there is a lot of great sports action the students miss while they look forward to next football season and the opportunity to break the bowl drought.

It would only be fair to start with the only defending national champion at NU, women’s lacrosse. On your bucket list of things you should do before leaving the holy grounds of Evanston is to head up to Lakeside Field and catch one of the Wildcats’ games. Besides the allure of winning six of the last seven national titles, the team will win the game you attend- I guarantee it. NU has lost just once in the comforts of home since 2005, and the Cats don’t look like they are going to slow down anytime soon.

The team also boasts the best women’s lacrosse player in the nation, attacker Shannon Smith. The senior won the Tewaaraton Award last season and is at the top of many people’s watch lists this season with her 43 goals and 55 points. Add in junior midfielder Erin Fitzgerald, who has 31 goals this year, and you will see a lot of goals and in the process hear the NU fight song quite a few times.

We transition to the 13-time defending Big Ten Tournament champions, the women’s tennis team. Claire Pollard has turned this program into a national powerhouse with a consistent top-20 ranking year in and year out. This year the team’s overall record is not spectacular (13-7), but its 6-1 record in Big Ten play places them in a tie atop the conference.

The matches are held on those tennis courts along Sheridan Road. You’ve seen them and probably wondered why they’re there. The matches are actually pretty cool to attend because you’re able to watch all six courts and keep tabs on everything or get up nice and close to the fence and focus in on one particularly exciting match.

Some under-the-radar sports you should keep an eye out for include baseball and men’s tennis, both of which have shown some promise this season. The men’s tennis team has been especially surprising with a 5-2 record, its best effort since a 6-4 mark in 2009, the last time the Cats played in the NCAA Tournament.

The baseball team has a load of good, young talent, which helped propel it to a series win over Nebraska last week. I suggest going on a Saturday to Rocky Miller Park and watching Brandon Magallones pitch. The freshman is 4-1 in six starts with a 3.00 ERA in those 36 innings of work.

We end with softball, a sport near and dear to my heart. NU put up an impressive show this past weekend against Iowa at home, taking two of three from the Hawkeyes. The team played a brutal schedule early so its 16-20 record is misleading, but the Cats seemed to have turned the corner this season and will be fun to watch at the “J” this season.

I also want to give a shoutout to the golf teams, which have played well this season, but since they don’t compete on campus, you can’t really watch them play.

With that, our tour of the spring sports season is done, and I hope you will see the spring as a time for success at NU, not a time to focus on what went wrong last year on the court or gridiron.

Sports editor Josh Walfish is a Medill sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]