The Daily Northwestern

Women’s Lacrosse: Offensive surge to be tested against Johns Hopkins

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Sheila Nesselbush brings the ball up the field. The junior midfielder and the Wildcats look to extend their winning streak Thursday against Johns Hopkins.

Sheila Nesselbush brings the ball up the field. The junior midfielder and the Wildcats look to extend their winning streak Thursday against Johns Hopkins.

Daily file photo by Dan Waldman

Daily file photo by Dan Waldman

Sheila Nesselbush brings the ball up the field. The junior midfielder and the Wildcats look to extend their winning streak Thursday against Johns Hopkins.

Ben Pope, Assistant Sports Editor

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Lacrosse


A greater emphasis on team unity — both on the field and in the box score — has Northwestern’s offense soaring at the right time.

“We’ve heightened our sense of communication, and we’re working a lot together verbally and supporting each other,” said senior attacker Danita Stroup, who has tallied multiple goals in each of her last five games. “(That) has really helped the last few games because it was lacking a little bit at the beginning of the season.”

Averaging 13 goals per game over their last five outings, the No. 16 Wildcats (5-5, 1-0 Big Ten) are riding a wave of offensive momentum entering Thursday’s meeting with Johns Hopkins (8-3, 0-2).

They’re getting those goals from a variety of contributors. Senior midfielder Catie Ingrilli has scored in all but one game this season, sophomore defender Claire Quinn scored her first two career goals in Sunday’s win over Louisville and attackers Meghan Duffey, a freshman, and Liza Elder, a sophomore, are also making bigger impacts lately.

That newfound scoring diversity has forced opposing defenses to key on more than just leading scorer Christina Esposito, coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said.

“Anytime you can get multiple people (scoring), that makes a big difference, because they can’t focus in on one particular individual,” Amonte Hiller said. “We’ve been able to really have our middies step up; we’ve had a lot of different attackers step up. We’re really realizing what each team is giving us and taking advantage of that.”

One of those stepping up midfielders is Sheila Nesselbush, who has recovered from an injury that cost her most of last season to erupt on a career-best five-game goal streak.

“It’s definitely been a long process … (and) even when you’re back physically, you have to get over some obstacles,” Nesselbush said. “In these past couple games, I’ve been a little bit more like myself, so I think we’re over the hump.”

Nesselbush is the only remaining veteran of NU’s last meeting with Johns Hopkins — a 12-11 double-overtime loss in 2014 — and said the lasting sting of that defeat will give her “a little extra fire” in Thursday’s game.

Nesselbush’s streak and the Cats’ scoring surge will be tested, however, by a stingy Johns Hopkins defense. The Blue Jays rank 20th in the nation in goals against per game and 34th in save percentage in their first season in the Big Ten.

“Although we haven’t played them in a few years, we have a history against them because they were in our conference (before),” Amonte Hiller said. “We have a little bit of familiarity with them. They’re just a very tough team.”

Johns Hopkins has lost two of its last three, though — trending in the opposite direction as NU, which has won back-to-back games to boost its record back to .500. The Cats will try to continue that winning streak in their second game of a three-game homestand Thursday.

“We have a bunch of different people scoring … so it’s hard for defenders right now to shut us down,” Nesselbush said. “I think me being a threat, in addition to everyone else, is helping with that.”

Email: benjaminpope2019@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @benpope111

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