The Daily Northwestern

Lacrosse: Northwestern evens record with standout sophomore play

Claire Quinn brings the ball up the field. The sophomore defender scored her first career goal in NU’s win Sunday.

Claire Quinn brings the ball up the field. The sophomore defender scored her first career goal in NU’s win Sunday.

Dan Waldman/Daily Senior Staffer

Dan Waldman/Daily Senior Staffer

Claire Quinn brings the ball up the field. The sophomore defender scored her first career goal in NU’s win Sunday.

Dan Waldman, Assistant Sports Editor

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Northwestern has struggled all season to hold onto leads and separate from its opponents. But a spark Saturday from the Wildcats’ sophomore class may have solved that issue.

No. 16 NU (5-5, 1-0 Big Ten) got past Louisville (9-4, 1-2 ACC) in a 12-8 back-and-forth contest that followed the script of the Cats’ season as they exchanged leads throughout.

NU needed to win Sunday to bring the team’s record back to even and give the team its first pair of consecutive wins since the opening two weeks of the season. But the task wouldn’t be easy against the Cardinals’ scoring defense, which ranked 13th in the nation allowing just 8.75 goals per game entering the match.

And less than three minutes into the game, Louisville struck first.

The Cats needed a response, and sophomore attacker Liza Elder answered.

Elder, who missed nearly all of last season with a lower body injury, scored twice in Sunday’s contest, giving NU an unexpected offensive catalyst. With junior midfielder Selena Lasota injured and senior attacker Christina Esposito unable to singlehandedly shoulder the offensive load, the Cats have sought contributions from elsewhere.

“We’re all just boosting each other up, and through that, we’re all getting a lot more confident in our play,” Elder said. “Our coach just talked to us about we all have to make plays for each other, and work for each other. And as soon as we wanted to do that, it all clicked.”

With the Cats trailing by a goal with under five minutes remaining in the first half, sophomore defender Claire Quinn took advantage of a free-position opportunity, driving hard with her left hand and ripping a shot past the Louisville goalkeeper.

Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said Quinn’s goal was a huge momentum swing for the team, as the defenders have made it a season-long goal to join the scoring party.

“This is the first game we’ve had defenders score in,” Amonte Hiller said. ”They’ve had that as a goal for themselves … they just were able to step up, find the openings and finish their shots.”

Quinn’s goal was the first of her NU career, and knotted the game at 3-3. The sophomore, who leads the team in ground balls, also anchored the team’s defense, flying across the field to stifle Louisville’s shooters.

She said the season has been building up to her scoring her first career goal, and she expects the rest of the defense to follow suit in the attack.

“Every game, defense gets together and we say ‘we’re gonna go,’” Quinn said. “We’ve had the confidence, and I saw the lane. I saw the opportunity, and I took it.”

The Cats went into halftime trailing the Cardinals 5-3, when Amonte Hiller gathered her team.
Her halftime speech woke the players up as NU responded, getting 4 goals from four different players in a three minute span.

But NU’s lead didn’t last long. The Cats couldn’t contain Louisville attacker Hannah Koloski, who scored four goals Sunday, two of which came in the second half to tie the game at 7.

The Cardinals then took the lead late in the half. But Louisville’s lead didn’t last either, as Quinn notched her second career goal just 26 seconds later.

Quinn’s tally was just the start.

The Cats went on to score 4-straight goals to give them a 12-8 lead. Following the game, Quinn said the success of the sophomore class stems from their close relationship and the bonds they have developed over the past two years.

“It’s team chemistry, we’re all living together, we’re with each other 24/7,” Quinn said. “We’ve been building on that, we’re with each other every day.”

Twitter: @dan_waldman