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Lacrosse: Northwestern seeks revenge against Penn State in Big Ten Tournament

Shelby+Fredericks+cradles+the+ball.+The+junior+attacker%E2%80%99s+draw+control+efforts+will+be+key+in+Friday%E2%80%99s+Big+Ten+Tournament+game+against+Penn+State.
Shelby Fredericks cradles the ball. The junior attacker’s draw control efforts will be key in Friday’s Big Ten Tournament game against Penn State.

Shelby Fredericks cradles the ball. The junior attacker’s draw control efforts will be key in Friday’s Big Ten Tournament game against Penn State.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Shelby Fredericks cradles the ball. The junior attacker’s draw control efforts will be key in Friday’s Big Ten Tournament game against Penn State.

Ben Pope, Assistant Sports Editor

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Lacrosse


Long after Tuesday’s practice ended, junior attacker Shelby Fredericks and sophomore midfielder Kim Harker were still working with coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, practicing draw controls as their teammates gathered their gear and headed home.

If No. 14 Northwestern (9-8, 4-2 Big Ten) is to upset No. 5 Penn State (15-2, 5-1) in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday, Fredericks and Amonte Hiller both know it may well be because of the Wildcats’ performance in the faceoff circle.

“Obviously, we work on that a lot, and anytime you can do well in the draw circle — anything over 50 percent — that’s a good day,” Amonte Hiller said. “That’s something that has always been a huge part of our program.”

In the two teams’ first meeting April 13, Fredericks set a program record with 17 individual draw controls as NU won 19 of the 29 total draws that night — yet still lost the game heartbreakingly, 14-13.

The nation’s third-leading draw controller said she feels the pressure to be even better in the rematch.

“Setting a record is great, but I didn’t really learn something from the numbers; I just got experience in that game,” Fredericks said. “They have really good draw-takers too … and just because we did something one game doesn’t mean that it’s just going to carry over automatically, so we’ve got to put in the same work and preparation.”

With NCAA Tournament selection looming, this weekend’s tournament — hosted by undefeated No. 1 seed Maryland — is the Cats’ last opportunity to make a statement. They’ll have potentially two high-stakes opportunities to do so, as a win Friday would push them into Sunday’s championship game against either the Terrapins or Johns Hopkins.

In the meantime, Amonte Hiller pulled out all the stops to prepare her squad.

The team spent the week practicing on the carpet-like turf of NU’s field hockey field instead of the lacrosse field, because Maryland hosts its women’s lacrosse games on its field hockey field.

The Cats also imitated facing Penn State’s dominant trio of scorers — Madison Carter, Katie O’Donnell and Steph Lazo, who averaged more than 9 goals per game by themselves this season — by deploying their own top scorers as a pseudo-“scout team” in practice against their defense.

“We’ve got a couple stars ourselves, so we’re just simulating them,” senior midfielder Catie Ingrilli said. “(We’re) trying to work on our (individual battles) and on the cutters with the tall girl and stuff like that.”

Ingrilli and Fredericks themselves could prove crucial to the Cats’ own offense this weekend, especially until senior attacker and leading scorer Christina Esposito, who has scored multiple goals in only one of her last five appearances, breaks out of her slump. Ingrilli scored twice in the two teams’ April meeting, and Fredericks has tallied six points in her last three games against the Nittany Lions.

Fredericks’ streak, in fact, dates back to last season, when NU lost to Penn State in the regular season but then topped them 9-6 in the Big Ten semifinals.

Though this year’s campaign has led to the exact same situation, Amonte Hiller said she is thinking little about last spring’s success and is instead pitching a simple message to her team.

“Everybody’s got to be ready and really just battle,” Amonte Hiller said. “Penn State’s a very scrappy team so we have to be just as scrappy.”

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

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