Lacrosse: Wildcats done ‘playing nice’ before battling with undefeated Trojans

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Lacrosse: Wildcats done ‘playing nice’ before battling with undefeated Trojans

Selena Lasota cradles the ball. The sophomore midfielder has scored 26 goals through the Wildcats’ first 12 games.

Selena Lasota cradles the ball. The sophomore midfielder has scored 26 goals through the Wildcats’ first 12 games.

Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Selena Lasota cradles the ball. The sophomore midfielder has scored 26 goals through the Wildcats’ first 12 games.

Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Selena Lasota cradles the ball. The sophomore midfielder has scored 26 goals through the Wildcats’ first 12 games.

Dan Waldman, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Wildcats opened last year’s season against an unranked USC team, in what should have been an easy win for then-No. 5 Northwestern. But the Trojans had other plans. USC took the Cats into overtime when then-freshman midfielder Selena Lasota sealed the game for NU in what would have been a massive upset.

Now undefeated, USC has its chance for revenge.

The No. 12 Cats (6-6, 1-1 Big Ten) host the No. 6 Trojans (13-0, 7-0 Mountain Pacific) on Friday in a rematch of last year’s season opener. NU is in the midst of a two-game winning streak after taking down Michigan and then-No.5 Notre Dame last week. The Trojans will look to end the Cats’ recent string of success with its combination of both the nation’s highest scoring offense and stingiest defense.

Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said last week’s win over the Fighting Irish was a huge momentum boost for the team, but NU has to focus all of its attention on USC for Friday.

“Obviously that win was exciting but we’re just kind of focusing in on this next game,” Amonte Hiller said. “Our next game is our most important game and we really have to take it one game at a time. Obviously this USC team has had a lot of success and is obviously very well coached.”

When the Cats last played USC, the Trojans took an early 7-0 lead before NU finally scored with a little over 3 minutes remaining in the first half. But the Cats outscored USC 8-4 in the second half to send the game into overtime, when Lasota took care of business.

However, NU hasn’t had the same success in overtime this season.

The Cats have lost both of their overtime games to then-No.4 North Carolina and then-No.16 Penn. Despite sophomore attacker Shelby Fredericks dominating draw controls this season, NU has been unable to score on the first possession of overtime.

“With the overtime, it’s just a mentality thing,” Amonte Hiller said. “You want to come out strong and really get that first draw control. That’s obviously the most important thing.”

Prior to last week, Lasota had been held scoreless in her previous two games against Maryland and Penn but rebounded against Michigan. The sophomore started the game off scoring 5 goals in the first half, and added another goal before the end of the game, en route to a 20-4 victory.

Lasota continued her dominance against Notre Dame, racking up another 5 goals to finish the week with 11 total.

“It was just natural,” Lasota said. “Our offense played extremely well (against Michigan). Christina Esposito got 3 goals and Kaleigh (Craig) 3. I think we all contributed and I got lucky a few times on offense.”

Along with Lasota’s recent dominance, Craig, a senior midfielder, has been commanding on both sides of the ball. Last week the Big Ten named Craig the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after she forced 5 turnovers. Craig also leads all scorers on the team with 27 goals.

After last week’s pair of wins, Craig said she has been playing with a new sense of intensity and fire in her game.

“After the losses that we’ve had I’ve just kind of been fed up with playing nice,” Craig said. “I guess the ride is a great chance to get the ball back, so we’ve been working really hard on that. I’ve just been wanting to play mean.”

Craig said the team is not concerned with the possibility of going to overtime again with the Trojans, but rather wants to prevent that situation from potentially occurring.

“We’ve been preparing to come out strong so we don’t have to get in that situation,” Craig said. “We’ve been able to do that the past couple games —  come out really hard — and it’s put us in a good position.”

Email: danielwaldman2019@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @dan_waldman

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