Lacrosse: Sophomores find rhythm as Northwestern prepares for Ohio State


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Claire Quinn brings the ball up the field. The defender, her sophomore teammates and the Wildcats are seeking a win Thursday at Ohio State.

Ben Pope, Assistant Sports Editor


Of the four players to start all 12 games for Northwestern this season, three are sophomores.

That’s an impressive statistic sophomore midfielder Nell Copeland was at first shy to brag about.

“We all really looked up to the class above us and … (knew) that we had a huge role to step up into,” Copeland said. “Because we’ve been watching them, we’ve learned that in order to make it on the field, you have to work so hard. Everyone in my class just works their butt off and that’s the culture we’ve created.”

Copeland opened up a bit more later.

“My class rocks,” she said, laughing.

As an up-and-down season for the No. 16 Wildcats (6-6, 2-0 Big Ten) continues Thursday at Ohio State (6-8, 0-3), the team’s surprising reliance on its sophomores has become increasingly evident.

Goaltender Mallory Weisse ranks third in the Big Ten in saves per game. Attacker Liza Elder has six goals in her last six appearances. Even Copeland, who has started every NU game in the midfield this year, scored her first career goal last week against Johns Hopkins.

“Especially on the defensive end, we have a bunch of sophomores and they’re doing a good job bringing good leadership (and) a fearlessness to their play,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “They all live together, so they have a sense of playing for each other as well.”

Arguably the biggest standout of the group, however, is defender Claire Quinn, who leads the team with 30 ground ball pick-ups and 21 turnovers caused — no one else, in either category, even comes close.

“I have a 50-50 chance of getting a foul or getting the ball, and I have to know when’s the right time to take a risk or to stay back,” Quinn said. “My confidence has grown immensely, and I owe that to the upperclassmen and the other defenders. We’re a small group but we have a great chemistry and we’re really close-knit.”

The continued emergence of significant contributors within the sophomore class has proved a boon for a Cats team that is suffering from the continued injury absence of last year’s second-leading scorer Selena Lasota and a recent slow stretch from current second-leading scorer Danita Stroup.

NU will certainly need production to come from somewhere as it begins a conference-heavy stretch to conclude the regular season. Four of its last five games are against Big Ten foes.

That slate begins with a road trip to Columbus for a rematch with a Buckeyes team that the Cats routed 22-13 last year. Ohio State has lost seven of its last eight games, but, in its last outing, lost narrowly to No. 5 Penn State in what Amonte Hiller called the Buckeyes’ “best game of the season.”

“They’re fighting for their life to make it into the tournament, so it’s going to be a hard-fought match,” Amonte Hiller said. “We’ve got to be ready.”

Quinn, who started as a freshman in last year’s meeting with Ohio State, promised that her sophomore class — as always — will step up.

“The energy is really high with our class,” she said. “Everyone gets along, everyone knows their role and everyone knows what to do. I think that’s what helps this team.”

Twitter: @benpope111