Lacrosse: Northwestern, Colorado enter Sunday matchup with plenty of familiarity


Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Corinne Wessels runs with the ball. The junior attacker has helped guide Northwestern’s offense from behind the net this season.

Dan Waldman, Assistant Sports Editor


Northwestern isn’t used to the mile-high altitudes it will see in Boulder on Sunday, but the Wildcats’ matchup against Colorado will be more familiar than the circumstances suggest.

NU (2-0) will head west to take on a Buffaloes (0-0), program it beat 11-6 last season. Though it’s the Cats’ first visit to Colorado in program history, the Buffaloes have a familiar face at the helm.

Ann Elliott was a member of the Cats’ coaching staff from 2009 to 2012, before leaving to coach Colorado’s new lacrosse program. Elliott also played her collegiate career in Evanston, where she was a standout defender.

Wildcats coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said Elliott brings insight about NU to Colorado. However, the Cats have their own insider in Hannah Nielsen, a new assistant coach, who previously served as a Colorado assistant after a prolific playing career in Evanston.

Despite Colorado’s familiarity with NU’s playing style, the Buffaloes will be tasked with the challenge of thwarting the Cats’ hot offense. NU has scored a combined 23 goals in its first two games this season — including 14 against No. 8 Notre Dame (0-1) last week — and has received scoring contributions from nine different players.

Part of the reason the Cats have had such ease putting the ball in the back of the net is junior attacker Corinne Wessels, who has a team-leading seven assists this season. Wessels plays predominantly behind the cage, acting as the team’s primary facilitator. But the attacker didn’t take credit for the team’s offensive efficiency.

“None of my passes would be finished if they weren’t going to people’s sticks who I trusted and can finish the ball,” Wessels said. “That’s not me, that’s all them. I trust my teammates to throw it to them and that they’ll finish.”

NU’s defense has impressed as well.

Following a 10-save effort against the Fighting Irish, sophomore goalie Mallory Weisse received Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors this week.

Despite being recently introduced to the NCAA’s new 90-second shot clock, Weisse has anchored the defense. She said playing with the time constraint was a bit different than she expected, but she is confident in her defense going forward.

“It’s not as rushed as I thought it would be,” Weisse said. “But the defense is really holding them which is giving me the shots I want to see.”

Going into Sunday’s game, the team has complete trust in their coach. Wessels called Amonte Hiller a “genius” and said the team just needs to “trust the system she puts in,” to come away with a win Sunday.

But the Cats coach said it is up to the team to do the little things to be successful.

“We know it’s going to be a big challenge playing up in Colorado with the altitude and they’re a very disciplined, strong team,” Amonte Hiller said. “We know we are going to have our hands full and we’ll have to play at our best.”

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