Lacrosse: Northwestern hopes to avenge last year’s loss to Florida

Dan Ryan

Northwestern avenged one of last season’s losses by beating Johns Hopkins last Sunday. This weekend is Act Two for the Wildcats.

No. 1 NU (14-0, 4-0 ALC) takes on No. 5 Florida (14-2, 4-0 ALC) this Saturday at Lakeside Field to determine the No. 1 seed in the ALC Tournament, and the Cats once again put their undefeated record on the line against their conference foes.

Last season the Gators upset the Cats 13-11 in Gainesville, Fla., to end the Cats’ perfect-season hopes and begin what would be an 0-2 weekend for NU.

Senior midfielder Alex Frank admitted the loss still lingers but said the team doesn’t worry about last season.

“Yeah, it’s kind of always there,” Frank said. “But we don’t really like to think about the past as much. It’s just another big game that we have coming up, and we’re just preparing for them like we would any other team. It’s always kind of fun to play.”

This year, Florida has earned its 4-0 ALC record with stellar play all around the field. Allowing only 6.63 goals per game, the Gators’ defense ranks No. 1 in the NCAA. Their offense isn’t far behind, coming in at No. 2 in the nation with an impressive 17.25 goals per game.

The Gators’ only two losses this season have come against then-No. 3 UNC and then-No. 9 Syracuse in overtime. UNC sits at No. 3 in the coaches’ poll, while the Orange are No. 2 in the poll and No. 1 in RPI. Florida is riding a 10-game winning streak, which includes victories over then-No. 10 Dartmouth, then-No. 15 Georgetown and most recently a 17-5 demolition of No. 17 Vanderbilt.

“They’re a tremendous team,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “They have unbelievable athletes from top to bottom. They have a lot of skill, and they are really well-coached. They play great offense, great defense, they’re very team-oriented. You can’t just stop one player, you’ve got to play good team defense against them.”

As an added bonus, this match-up will decide the No. 1 seed in the ALC Tournament, which will be held in Gainesville this season. For the Cats, any advantage they can get over the Gators to offset home field will be crucial in capturing the sixth straight ALC Tournament title for the program. NU has won all five titles since the tournament’s inception in 2007, including defeating Florida in last year’s championship.

“That’s really the goal of every ALC team, is to go through the regular season and gain that No. 1 seed in the tournament,” Amonte Hiller said. “So that’s the goal. I’m sure that’s Florida’s goal as well.”

If the ALC consequences weren’t enough to drive the Cats, Frank said last year’s split adds to an increasingly heated rivalry.

“It’s always kind of a motivation in the ALC to beat conference teams so we can get a good seed for the conference play,” Frank said. “Obviously there is a constant rivalry between the two of us.”

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