Lacrosse: Wildcats seek revenge against Louisville in first round of NCAA Tournament


Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Northwestern gathers during a break in play. If the Wildcats defeat Louisville on Friday, they will face Notre Dame.

Claire Hansen, Reporter


The road to the NCAA championship looks a little more like a gauntlet for the Wildcats, but after recent wins against Ohio State and Penn State and a near-win against No. 1 Maryland, momentum is in their favor.

Northwestern (10-9, 3-2 Big Ten) received an at-large bid to the tournament, marking its 13th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. The Cats will play Louisville (12-5, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) in the first round of the tournament in South Bend, Indiana, on Friday night.

When the squads met in the regular season early this March, NU struggled to find an offensive flow, and the Cats lost to the Cardinals 10-4. Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said that, although NU has grown as a team over the course of the season, Friday’s game will still be a battle.

“We are a different team, but they probably are too,” Amonte Hiller said. “Everybody’s improved and gotten better since the last time we met, but I think that overall we are a bit more of a complete team in terms of our personnel on the field. I think that the girls are playing well and feeding off each other. We have to have everyone step up.”

The winner of the opening matchup will play No. 6 seed Notre Dame, a team the Cats beat earlier this season.

The path to the NCAA Tournament has been markedly different for the Cats this season than in years past. Finishing 10-9, NU did not guarantee eligibility for the tournament until a win against Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament last weekend.

In previous years, the Cats have finished the regular season with significantly better records, and have been a shoo-in for the tournament. Amonte Hiller said facing such a difficult regular season schedule and losing tough games actually gives the Cats an edge in NCAA Tournament play.

“Losses and setbacks make you grow,” Amonte Hiller said. “They force you to look at yourself, they force you to get better and I think that more than anything that was the benefit of having those setbacks, and having such a rigorous schedule. We’re excited about those experiences; we feel like they’ve helped prepare us for this moment.”

The last time these two teams met, Louisville edged the Cats 9-7 in draw controls. Draw controls will be crucial for the Cats on Friday because throughout the season, NU has struggled with defending fast breaks off the draw.

The battle at the draw is really going to be between NU’s sophomore midfielder Shelby Fredericks, who ranks No. 6 in the nation in draw controls, and Louisville senior Kaylin Morissette, who sits at the No. 2 spot.

Louisville’s defense also got the best of NU’s offensive squad in their March game, limiting the Cats’ effectiveness in the midfield and attacking circle. Sophomore midfielder Selena Lasota said NU won’t be making specific offensive adjustments for Friday’s game, but will rely on changes made throughout the season.

“We’ve, over the season, have made our adjustments,” Lasota said. “What we need to do is focus on what we’ve been doing and focus on us.”

Freshman goalie Mallory Weisse said NU’s previous loss to the Cardinals is, if anything, a motivator. The Cats have already shown their ability to bounce back from a mid-season loss, beating the Nittany Lions in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals after falling to them in the regular season.

“We’re a very resilient team, and playing a team twice that has beat us (the first time) puts us in an even stronger position,” Weisse said. “We like that position. We want to upset people and show people what we’ve made of.”

Will Ragatz contributed reporting.

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Twitter: @clairechansen