Walfish: Lack of heart troublesome for Wildcats


Josh Walfish, Reporter

There’s trouble brewing in paradise.

That’s the message I took from Kelly Amonte Hiller’s postgame news conference after Florida scored seven second-half goals to beat Northwestern 9-8 in Sunday’s ALC Tournament title game.

What bothers me the most is the fact the Wildcats didn’t show the intensity necessary in the second half to deserve being named the final ALC Tournament champions. Amonte Hiller conceded that point during her postgame comments, and that really struck a nerve with me.

One of the greatest things about this past basketball season was that despite an obvious skill disadvantage nearly every night, Chris Collins’  team showed heart. Through pure grit and determination, NU was able to stage upsets over Wisconsin on the road and over Iowa at the Big Ten Tournament. Even though the skill disparity was too much in the end, we all appreciated those players for putting everything on the line to win games.

That was not the case for the Cats on Sunday. We all know NU has the skill to compete with and beat any team in the country. We saw it in the first half against Florida and in the win over North Carolina earlier in the year.

But we have also seen this team rely too much on its skill and get into trouble as a result. That manifested itself the most in the second half Sunday, when various NU players would try to dodge their way out of the Florida double teams instead of trying to find the open player. As a result, Florida forced four second-half turnovers and was able to limit NU strictly to the perimeter, not allowing the Cats to attack the cage.

I understand NU dominating the first half of a game against an unranked program and then slowing down the engines a bit, but when the No. 3 team in the country comes to your home field and dominates a second half like Florida did Sunday, that is inexcusable and embarrassing. There is no rational reason NU should have taken its foot off the gas in the second half against a top-five program and no reason the Cats were outworked as much as they were by the Gators.

Normally, NU takes a loss and uses it as motivation for the next couple of weeks. This year, the Cats have had two two-game losing streaks, something that hasn’t happened since 2003, the last time NU failed to make the tournament. In fact, the Cats only had one two-game losing streak in the previous 10 seasons.

Last season, Florida blew out NU 22-4 in Gainesville, Florida, but when the ALC Tournament title was on the line, the Cats dominated and took home the trophy. This year, NU’s spirited comeback fell short in the regular season, but come tournament time the revenge effort only lasted 30 minutes.

The Gators heaped a lot of praise onto the Cats when they held their media scrum on the field, but what should sting NU the most are the words of Gators freshman defender Taylor Bresnahan.

“We just came out with more heart and we just wanted it more,” Bresnahan said.

Skill can win you a lot of games, but you need heart and intensity to win a national title. Christy Turner said it best in her postgame remarks.

“It’s up to us to determine what we want for this team,” the senior said.

NU has the chance to make history, but it will take heart and desire to get them there.

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Twitter: @JoshWalfish