Lacrosse: Wildcats look to rebound from disappointing stretch against Michigan


Daily file photo by Sean Su

Kaleigh Craig ponders her next move. The senior midfielder leads the Wildcats in goals this season with 22.

Dan Waldman, Assistant Sports Editor


Following a pair of devastating road losses to Maryland and Penn, Northwestern returns to its new stadium for a four-game home stretch, where the team will have a chance to pick up its first conference win of the season.

The No. 13 Wildcats (4-6, 0-1 Big Ten) host Michigan (5-7, 0-1 Big Ten) on Thursday in the Big Ten Network Women’s Lacrosse Game of the Week. The Cats have dropped three of their last four games, with losses to North Carolina and Penn coming in overtime. Now, with only six games remaining in the regular season, the team understands the implications associated with each game.

“We’re treating every game like a playoff game,” junior attacker Christina Esposito said. “It’s pretty much at that point and we want to make that a standard for ourselves and put that pressure on ourselves.”

Esposito, along with senior midfielder Kaleigh Craig, led the team in scoring against Penn last weekend with 4 goals in the overtime loss. The Quakers shut down the Cats’ star attacker, sophomore Selena Lasota, forcing the team to search for other scoring threats.

Penn outscored NU 7-4 in the first half before Craig added 4 second-half goals to help give the Cats a 9-6 scoring advantage in the second. Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said the team needs to continue to play with the same intensity it had in the second half of last week’s game to set the tone for the rest of the season.

“That was a really tough loss but I think that the last portion of the second half that the kids played with a ton of fire and came back from a huge deficit,” Amonte Hiller said. “I think that if we can continue to play with that type of fire, we’re hopefully going to put ourselves in a good position.”

The Quakers exploited NU’s defense in transition, forcing the Cats to foul. NU lost to both North Carolina and Penn in similar fashion by committing a foul in overtime and allowing the opposing team to set up its offense.

Freshman goalkeeper Mallory Weisse, who is No. 33 in the nation in saves per game, only recorded three saves in the 14-13 loss to the Quakers on Sunday. Weisse said the key to limiting the opposing offense’s scoring will be winning the draw control and limiting fastbreak opportunities.

“We win the draw, it doesn’t happen,” Weisse said. “But obviously fastbreak is any team’s strong suit. It’s easy to get a man-up situation out of that, but we just have to shut it down and stop transition early.”

Now the team has a chance to redeem itself.

Heading into its second Big Ten game of the year, NU will look to revamp its defense and dominate draw controls to get out to an early lead against the Wolverines. Amonte Hiller said Michigan is a tough and athletic team, and emphasized that there are no easy games in conference play.

And with the team’s leading goal scorer from last year being locked off as well as losing junior midfielder Sheila Nesselbush for the season, the Cats have had to go through an adjustment period to figure out their offense. But Esposito said the team knows it can play at a higher level, and NU is ready to prove that on Thursday.

“I just want better for this team,” Esposito said. “I know that this team is better than how we have been performing.”  

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