Lacrosse: Northwestern hits the road for pair of East Coast matchups

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Lacrosse: Northwestern hits the road for pair of East Coast matchups

Attacker Kara Mupo evades a Maryland defender. Sunday the fifth-year senior returns to Long Island, near where she grew up, to face her high school lacrosse coach, now the head coach at Stony Brook.

Attacker Kara Mupo evades a Maryland defender. Sunday the fifth-year senior returns to Long Island, near where she grew up, to face her high school lacrosse coach, now the head coach at Stony Brook.

Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Attacker Kara Mupo evades a Maryland defender. Sunday the fifth-year senior returns to Long Island, near where she grew up, to face her high school lacrosse coach, now the head coach at Stony Brook.

Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Attacker Kara Mupo evades a Maryland defender. Sunday the fifth-year senior returns to Long Island, near where she grew up, to face her high school lacrosse coach, now the head coach at Stony Brook.

Ava Wallace, Reporter

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Entering the last third of the regular season, Northwestern is sitting pretty, at least according to coach Kelly Amonte Hiller and senior attacker Kara Mupo.
The No. 5 Wildcats (8-3, 1-1 Big Ten) face Rutgers (1-12, 0-2) on Friday night in Piscataway, New Jersey before taking a short bus ride to New York for No. 9 Stony Brook (11-1) on Sunday.

The turnaround on a two-game weekend is tough, especially when traveling. But after surviving a physically and mentally grueling mid-season, one that started over Spring Break and included contests against three top-10 teams, a crushing loss to No. 1 Maryland and the Wildcats’ first conference win, Mupo said team morale is high.

“This is the heat of the season, we’re at the halfway point where you can either hit the wall or keep moving forward. I think it’s the great teams that keep moving forward,” Mupo said. “So, after a loss like (Maryland) in conference, we’ve got more fuel than ever.”

History proves Mupo right.

By now, the more experienced Cats such as Mupo, junior midfielder Kaleigh Craig and senior goalkeeper Bridget Bianco are used to seeing a record akin to 8-3 at this point in the season. For the past few years the Cats have suffered a tough loss toward the end of their schedule only to rebound and win out the rest of the regular season.

Freshman Shelby Fredericks said NU doesn’t plan to break tradition this year.

“A lot of people are talking about Maryland, but I don’t think that’s really indicative of what we’re capable of doing, and I think that’s how everyone on the team felt,” Fredericks said. “We were just like, ‘Let’s make Maryland a fluke, let’s not keep that consistent.’ If we win every game from here on out people are going to stop talking. We’ll see them again, we’ll get them.”

Of course, despite winning the last leg of the regular season, the Cats haven’t won a national championship since 2012.

Still, it’s the kind of track record that instills confidence even in the team’s youngest players and makes Amonte Hiller’s strategic scheduling seem logical.

“Hopefully the schedule is going to pay dividends for us as we grow,” Amonte Hiller said. “We’ve had a lot of challenges, and with each game we’re going to get better and better.”

NU sits fourth in the Big Ten behind Maryland, Penn State and Ohio State. The latter two have yet to face the Terrapins — the only team in the nation with a perfect record — so with only five games before the Big Ten Tournament starts up, the Cats have a good chance at the No. 2 seed.

Despite not having faced Rutgers since 2009, the struggling Scarlet Knights shouldn’t give the Cats too much trouble Friday. It’s the Sunday matchup that could get dicey.

Leading scorer freshman Selena Lasota will pilot NU’s attack against one of the best defenses in the nation in Stony Brook. The Seawolves’ zone-hybrid defense isn’t unfamiliar to the Cats, but Stony Brook runs it more efficiently than almost anyone else, allowing opponents on average fewer than five goals per game.

Lasota, meanwhile, still sits at No. 3 in the nation in goals per game with 42 through 12 contests. She earned her third Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor after NU’s two wins against Michigan and Penn.

After Stony Brook, the Cats’ last top-10 opponent of the season, NU faces a traditionally tough foe in Notre Dame and hosts conference rivals Penn State and Ohio State to finish out the season.

Email: avawallace2015@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @AvaRWallace

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