Walfish: Welcome to ‘Kelly Amonte Hiller Weekend’

Walfish: Welcome to 'Kelly Amonte Hiller Weekend'

Josh Walfish, Sports Editor

Death, taxes and Northwestern lacrosse over Memorial Day weekend — the three guarantees in life.

Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller will say all the right things and be thankful for every Final Four the Wildcats appear in, but there is no chance in the foreseeable future NU won’t be making an appearance at the premier weekend in women’s lacrosse. Amonte Hiller has continued to reload in Evanston, and no program is coming close to preventing the Cats from being one of the last four standing.

There is greater pressure because the expectation has been set, but that seems to be more motivating than stressful for the team. Unlike every other program in Evanston, the lacrosse team is judged based on whether it wins a national title. Last season, NU didn’t win the ALC regular season or tournament, but it won the national title. Is that season a failure? In 2010, the Cats took home both the ALC regular season titles but lost in the national championship game to Maryland. Is that year a success?

If you injected Amonte Hiller with truth serum — which I suggest you do not attempt to do — she will tell you all that matters is hoisting that trophy the Sunday before Memorial Day. So 2010 was a failure and 2012 was a success. Of course, Amonte Hiller will tell you she’d much rather have a year like 2009 when the Cats took home all three trophies, but at the heart of it is success or failure determined by who wins the game the Sunday before Memorial Day.

So now that we are entering what I have unofficially dubbed “Kelly Amonte Hiller Weekend,” what can we expect out of the Cats? Can NU actually win eight national titles in nine years? Will the hope for four national titles in my time in Evanston last for another year?

After shaking my magic 8-ball, it told me “all signs point to yes.”

Statistically speaking, the biggest factor in NU’s favor is its stellar defense. The Cats have given up double-digit goals only five times this season, and if you take out the 22-goal aberration in Gainesville, Fla., NU gave up just more than 7 goals per game. On six occasions, the Cats have held opponents to 5 goals or fewer in a game.

As for No. 1 Maryland, it wins by outscoring opponents. It has allowed double-digit goals seven times this year and has held a team to 5 goals or fewer four times. The only time the Terrapins beat the Cats this century, it was a 13-11 shootout. The two meetings since that loss have been low scoring, which plays into the hands of the possession-minded Cats.

However, there is a reason I unofficially named Memorial Day weekend after Amonte Hiller. NU always seems to peak at just the right time for a run at the national title, and this year is no different.

The Cats are clearly playing their best lacrosse of the season in the NCAA Tournament, rolling over Stanford and Penn State on their way to the Final Four. The defense has been outstanding, and NU has showcased its killer instinct more than ever before.

So watch out, Philadelphia. Amonte Hiller and the Cats are coming to prove this is their weekend.