Lacrosse: Wildcats open season with familiar foe in Duke


Daily file photo by Sean Su

Kaleigh Craig cradles the ball. The senior is looking to help the Wildcats avenge their loss against Duke last season.

Dan Waldman, Reporter


The Wildcats open their season looking for revenge.

After losing to Duke in their third game of the season last year, Northwestern will travel to Durham on Sunday to take on the Blue Devils.

Coming off a disappointing loss in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals to Maryland last year, NU is looking to get back to at least the Final Four. But before the team can even start to think about the tournament, it will first have to deal with its season-opening game against Duke.

“We are just really excited to go out and not only get the opportunity to play them in our first game, but also to just play such a great team and elevate our strengths,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said.

Amonte Hiller praised Duke and said the team took advantage of her squad last year. Despite five goals from Selena Lasota and four goals from Kaleigh Craig in last year’s game, the Cats couldn’t edge out the Blue Devils, and the visitors handed the Cats their first loss of the season.

The teams put up similar statistics, but Duke was able to convert on more of its shots. The Cats recorded more ground balls and committed fewer turnovers, but NU only capitalized on 9-of-24 shots while the Blue Devils shot 15-of-27.

Lasota, who finished with a team-high 69 goals last year as a freshman and has been pegged as a Big Ten Player to Watch, said she is putting an emphasis on finishing her shots Sunday and getting ahead early in the scoring category.

“Lacrosse is a fast game and I think that in every game it’s important to set the tone right at the beginning of the game,” Lasota said. “We just have to come out fierce and ready to play the game that we all know that we can play.”

The Cats’ game against Duke will be the first of four straight games against opponents that finished in the top-25 last season. During the difficult opening stretch, NU will rely on younger players like Lasota and sophomore Shelby Fredericks, who recorded the most draw controls for NU last season.

Although the team’s younger players will be vital for its game Sunday, the Cats will also depend on veteran experience from seniors like Craig who have already competed against Duke three times.

Craig was a member of the NU team that defeated the Blue Devils in 2014, when the then-sophomore scored four goals. But this year, Craig and her younger teammates will have to set the tone early by finishing on their shots.

“Finishing is going to be huge,” Amonte Hiller said. “You always have to capitalize on the opportunities you have, and that is something we have been focusing in on.”

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