Lacrosse: Wrigley Field game to be landmark for Northwestern program, sport

Edward Cox/Daily Senior Staffer


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior draw control specialist and NCAA draw control record holder Alyssa Leonard hugs her teammates. As a senior member of the squad, Leonard also played in Northwestern’s games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 2013, Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., in 2012 and Cowboys Stadium in Dallas in 2011.

Ava Wallace, Web Editor

No. 6 Northwestern heads to Wrigley Field on Saturday to play No. 40 Southern California in what is sure to be a celebration of the sport, the program and, as it turns out, NU’s athletic department.

The game is the second part of a five-year NU partnership with the Chicago Cubs, following last year’s baseball game against Michigan.

And boy is the timing perfect.

NU heads into Saturday’s historic game with a 9-5 record, the worst the team has seen in over a decade. USC clocks in with an 8-7 record on the season and is coming off of an 11-10 upset of No. 14 Stanford, but the Cats walloped the Trojans 18-5 when the two teams met last season.

The 2-year-old USC program is also coached by two NU alumnae, Lindsey Munday and Hilary Bowen.

“(Munday’s) pumped,” NU coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “We obviously have a tremendous amount of respect for each other. We’re very close friends. I think as a byproduct of having her and Hilary Bowen as the opposing team, we have quite a lot of alumni come back to watch and support, so it should be a great day.”

Munday and Bowen’s presence adds additional meaning to a match in which the quintessential symbol of Chicago sports will become a meeting ground of old and new, a representation of the program’s roots and how Hiller’s influence has expanded the sport.

To add to the game’s importance, the Wrigley game is NU’s last of the regular season, its last chance to gain momentum heading into its conference tournament.

In short, NU could certainly use the mental and emotional boost Saturday’s game is sure to provide, win or lose.

Strategically, the Cats only benefit from having more time on the field after losing their leading scorer, sophomore Kaleigh Craig, to a lower body injury.

Hiller moved attack-midfielders sophomore Lauren Murray and junior Jess Carroll up to true attack in Saturday’s game against No. 4 Florida. Murray had 1 goal, and Carroll notched an impressive 2 — her athleticism shining against the relentless Gators — in support of junior Kara Mupo, who took the lead on attack with 4 goals.

Leading up to the Wrigley game, Mupo said the new attack group has been working on being flexible within the team’s set plays and getting used to playing closer to the cage.

“Attack middie and attack are two totally different looks, coming out of the box and then actually being on the field in transitions,” Mupo said. “So just kind of getting used to that, working with each other, getting in the flow of things. Once you have that flow, it’s hard to put it to a stop.”

The mental, emotional and strategic pluses of the Wrigley game are hugely important to the program, but it should be noted the players aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from a good outing Saturday.

The game at the Friendly Confines comes in the wake of the football team’s Friday union vote that has students, administration, faculty and alumni abuzz. The athletic department couldn’t have asked for a better moment for an outpouring of NU support.

The culmination of the celebration of NU’s most successful athletic program and a chance to remind fans that NU is “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” is almost too good to be true.

Despite all that’s at stake for the team, the program and the athletic department, Hiller remains unfazed.

“We’ll see how it goes on gameday,” she said.

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