Lacrosse: Northwestern looks to control draws against Duke

Dan Ryan and Dan Ryan

The scoreboard at Lakeside Field read “Don’t Forget” on Wednesday, and the final tally 18-5 lit up underneath, providing a constant reminder throughout practice that the Wildcats have unfinished business.

The score was in reference to the final total of draw controls in the ALC Championship two weeks ago in which Northwestern lost 18 of the 23 draw opportunities in its loss to Florida.

Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller stressed that it was something that had never happened to the program and something that she was not going to see again.

“That poor performance on the draw has never happened in our program,” Amonte Hiller said. “That was a message that we really need to commit. We need to commit stronger and harder to the 50/50 possessions. We know Duke is a very strong team on the draw. We played them the last time. It’s going to be a battle for every single draw, and we need to be ready for it.”

NU saw a great deal of improvement in the area during its 12-7 victory over Notre Dame.

The Cats, led by sophomore midfielder Alyssa Leonard’s eight draw controls, held a 15-5 advantage in draws by game’s end, effectively controlling possession for much of the game and limiting the Fighting Irish’s chances on offense.

The Cats’ success last weekend, however, does not mean the team is done placing emphasis on the area. Amonte Hiller has stressed the importance of winning the 50/50 ball on the outcome of every game, and with Duke coming to town on Saturday for the second round of play, NU will need to sustain its improvement.

The Blue Devils currently rank 17th in the nation in draw controls with 13.78 per game, placing them 17 spots above the Cats, who are averaging 12.95. And despite the fact that NU defeated Duke 13-5 at the start of the season, Amonte Hiller said Duke has gotten better since the meeting.

“It’s two different teams,” Amonte Hiller said. “Duke has improved a lot throughout their season. This is everyone’s last potential opportunity to play, and there’s a lot on the line. We expect them to come out really hard.”

The Blue Devils also received the bonus of the return of senior midfielder Kat Thomas, who scored three goals in Duke’s win over Virginia in the first round. Thomas totaled 47 points last year, good for third on the team, and was a Tewaaraton Award nominee.

Senior attacker Shannon Smith said Thomas’ return is one of a few changes for the Blue Devils since the last time the teams met.

“That was back in February,” Smith said. “Duke has come a long way. There’s a lot of months in between there. They’re going to be tough. They’re going to be competitive. They’re going to be well-coached with a great game plan.”

Despite being two weeks removed from their second loss to Florida, Smith said the team is still using its performance against Florida as fuel for the tournament. The scoreboard, Smith said, ensures the Cats don’t forget what cost them the ALC Championship.

“It’s a reminder that we didn’t work hard during that game,” Smith said. “It’s a constant reminder that when you don’t work hard, things like that are going to happen to you. In this program we’re blue collar. We get down and dirty. We fight for those ground balls. We fight for those draw controls. That’s what the reminder is. Things don’t come to you easily. You need to work for it.”

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