Walfish: Northwestern’s 2013 lacrosse season not a complete loss

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Josh Walfish, Sports Editor

It started as anger, but the emotions just got worse.

I was furious most of Friday night. I was disappointed Saturday. I was frustrated Sunday. By the time the first overtime started Sunday night, I was irate.

My irritation was soothed when I saw North Carolina celebrating the women’s lacrosse national championship, but it led me to go into the dreaded circle of “what ifs.”

What if Northwestern beat North Carolina on Friday night? What if the Wildcats tested the Tar Heels more in that semifinal? What if NU played Maryland in the semifinals?

The questions were endless, but my time is not. I won’t bore you by taking you through a fantasy scenario. I won’t be writing about my emotions anymore. I won’t even be discussing what the loss means for the future of this team. The next 300 words will be devoted to writing the eulogy for this year’s team.

It was a weird year for coach Kelly Amonte Hiller and the Cats. In many ways, it was a repeat of 2004, the last time NU did not make the national title game.

NU lost three games for the first time since 2004. The Cats failed to eclipse 300 goals in a season for the first time since 2004. They didn’t win 20 games this season for the first time since — you guessed it — 2004.

The Cats gave up the third most goals in the Amonte Hiller era, including 22 against Florida during the regular season.

Yet, at times, it looked like this was a team of destiny. When the pressure was on, NU rose to the challenge. The Cats responded to the embarrassment in Gainesville, Fla., they responded in the ALC title game against the Gators and they responded in the first two games of the NCAA Tournament. The team seemed to be rounding into form after that loss to Florida, but those games are now pointless.

I have written many times NU will be judged by the hardware it wins over Memorial Day weekend. The Cats did not win this Memorial Day weekend, and many people will say this year was a failure. But something tells me this year was not a failure, even though every bone in my body wants to call this season a catastrophe.

Friday night was not the end of the world, even if my emotions made me believe that. By Monday, all my feelings were numb and the reality of the situation hit me. NU actually lost in the national semifinals, and I know no one in that locker room was happy.

However, when the rubber met the road, the Cats looked uninspired and did not play up to their potential. In a must-win scenario, the Cats laid an egg and allowed the Tar Heels to dominate the game from the opening whistle. That is the lasting image of this season for the Cats,  not the ALC title nor any of the 21 games Feb. 8-May 18.

The future may look bright for the Cats, but right now we aren’t looking forward to 2014. We’re reflecting on 2013 and what could have been.

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