Lacrosse: Northwestern’s Amonte Hiller, Maryland’s Reese talk Final Four in teleconference


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

Brennan Dwyer runs down the field against Maryland in April. The Wildcats will face the Terrapins for the third time this year on Friday in the Final Four.

Ella Brockway, Sports Editor


This weekend’s Final Four isn’t Kelly Amonte Hiller’s first rodeo.

She’s been in this position — preparing Northwestern to play on Memorial Day weekend with a national title on the line — 10 times before. All of those appearances were consecutive, from 2005 to 2014. The last five years of adjusting to life in the Big Ten and, before now, never advancing past the quarterfinal round, have not been easy. But now that they’re back, Amonte Hiller said the No. 4 Wildcats are ready.

“We’ve been working pretty hard to get to this point,” the coach said in a media teleconference Monday. “Sometimes when you lose that confidence and your ability to get over the hump, it takes a little bit to get back, and this has been a process to get back here. I’m really proud of this group.”

She’s been in this specific spot — preparing her team to face Maryland, her alma mater and her program’s biggest rival of the last half-decade — even more frequently. NU has played the Terrapins ten times since 2014, including twice this season, but has come out on the winning end just once.

Despite the history, both old and recent — the teams split this season’s meetings — and the heightened stakes that come with this weekend, Amonte Hiller said the Cats are treating Friday’s national semifinal as just “another opportunity.”

“All four teams in the Final Four are tremendous and every game is going to be a battle,” she said. “We’re excited about it. We feel like we match up well against Maryland and we’re going to give it our best effort.”

That effort will be matched by a No. 1 Maryland team looking for revenge. The loss NU handed the Terrapins on May 5 — at Johns Hopkins’ Homewood Field, the same place that’ll host this weekend’s action — was the program’s first in the state of Maryland in seven years.

Coach Cathy Reese said the defeat forced the Terrapins to refocus ahead of the NCAA Tournament, and that mentality has worked so far. Maryland won both its second round and quarterfinal games by scores of 17-8.

“We learned a lot about ourselves and had the chance to really reevaluate some things. I don’t know that you necessarily do a lot of times after wins, so it was a good learning opportunity for us,” Reese said in the teleconference. “It was a chance for us to reset and focus in on these past couple weeks on being better.”

The Terrapins and the Cats will face off in the second game, playing after No. 2 Boston College and No. 3 North Carolina finish in the first semifinal. The Eagles and the Tar Heels also met twice this season — Boston College won 14-8 on March 23, while North Carolina clinched the ACC Tournament title in a 15-13 win on April 28.

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