Lacrosse: Why No. 5 Northwestern isn’t looking beyond the Big Ten Tournament


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

Izzy Scane celebrates a goal with her teammates. The freshman is second on the team in both goals and points this season.

Charlie Goldsmith, Reporter

The loss still haunts coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, but it’s not the one that you would think.

Over the course of the season, the players have spoken about their long-term goal for a deep postseason tournament run. But nothing snaps them back to reality like their coach reminding them of their 21-16 loss to an unranked Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals last season.

The game denied Northwestern an opportunity for a Big Ten championship and a better postseason draw. If the Wildcats had come out on top in that one, they probably would not have been in a position to face No. 2 North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals two weeks later, with a 19-14 loss that ended their season early and left the team disappointed.

“Losing to Penn State really affected our seeding, so we know how important every single game is that we play,” Amonte Hiller said. “Now we know we can’t look ahead, we can’t look back. You only get a limited amount of opportunities.”

One year after the miscue against the Nittany Lions, No. 5 NU (12-4, 5-1 Big Ten) is back in the Big Ten Tournament, where it will face No. 7 Michigan (15-2, 4-2) on Friday in Baltimore and likely No. 1 Maryland (17-0, 6-0) in the tournament championship game Sunday. If they win out, the Cats will likely earn a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament and host the tournament regional finals, but the Wolverines have been the only topic of conversation this week.

NU had some long film sessions preparing for Michigan’s strong back line, and the impending matchup against the Terrapins has not been brought up by any coach or any of the players, according to sophomore midfielder Brennan Dwyer.

“That’s the only way we can get to where we want to be, by taking on our next opponent,” Dwyer said. “We’re taking it normally, not trying to make a big deal out of it. If we’re all playing our best and doing what we need to do we’ll make a stand there.”

The Cats defeated the Wolverines 14-11 on Senior Day in April, but the Wolverines have won six games this season against top-25 teams. Coached by former NU star Hannah Nielsen, Michigan has turned itself around from a sub-.500 squad last year to a top-10 team considered to be one of the fastest risers in the country.

NU set preseason goals to win Big Ten and national championships this season. In addition to the Big Ten Tournament championship on the line this weekend, the Cats’ NCAA Tournament path will be influenced by what happens in Baltimore. But that has not influenced NU’s preparation at all, and freshman midfielder Izzy Scane said the Cats are preparing this week like they are playing a regular-season game.

“We have to be able to get past their defense with long slides, and we’re watching the film to find more ways to get past their defense,” she said. “We’ve been working really hard to get that extra step so we can beat the top teams in the country. Hopefully, that will be enough.”

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