Lacrosse: Fall ball returns for first time since 2019


Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern

Senior attacker Izzy Scane drives down the field. Scane kicked off her senior fall ball season with multiple goals on Sunday.

Charlotte Varnes and MaryKate Anderson

For the first time in two years, fall ball lacrosse is back at Northwestern.

Senior attacker Izzy Scane and graduate student attacker Lauren Gilbert headlined a powerful offensive performance, leading the way to the Wildcats’ 21-11 victory over Colorado in their first game of the fall season on Sunday.

Graduate student defender Ally Palermo said she especially appreciates the return of fall ball ahead of her final shot at a national championship. 

“Last year was difficult because we were mainly focused on (how) we might not have the next day,” said Palermo. “I just feel like I have a lot more left to give. And I’m just really excited to get another opportunity.”

The fall ball season typically gives freshmen an opportunity to play with their teammates in a competitive setting for the first time. However, since COVID-19 concerns cancelled last year’s fall season, Sunday was also the sophomores’ first experience playing in a more relaxed environment.

Sophomore attacker Leah Holmes pointed to the ability to worry less about the scoreboard and to “just enjoy playing and getting better with your team” as a major benefit.  

Last year, lacrosse couldn’t practice as a full team or compete against other schools in the fall. Instead, the squad divided into groups of about 10 people and held team scrimmages. This format made it difficult to build chemistry for both new and returning players, Holmes said.

While playing intersquad competition last season had its advantages, Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said nothing can beat a normal slate of matchups.

“We’re excited to play some outside competition this year,” Amonte Hiller said. “We’re (also) trying to keep the mentality we gained last year with not playing outside (opponents).”

Sunday’s game also marked the return of four veteran graduate student-athletes: Gilbert, Palermo, midfielder Brennan Dwyer and midfielder Jill Girardi. The group played a key role in NU’s 2021 record-breaking campaign that ended in the Final Four. 

Amonte Hiller said the four players set the tone for the Cats last season and expects them to do so again this year. Returning such a core group of veterans will improve confidence for the entire program, she said.

Gilbert called her time playing for NU the “most formative” experience of her life, saying she wanted to come back to make another postseason push and help the team reach its potential.

“We had unfinished business last year,” Gilbert said. “Obviously, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to. I wouldn’t be able to pass up an opportunity to get that chance of finishing on top.”

The Cats return to Martin Stadium on Saturday to face Florida and Marquette. 

Ahead of these matchups, Amonte Hiller said the Cats will continue adjusting to new NCAA regulations. The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel changed several game rules for the upcoming season, including shifting the format of the game from halves to quarters, eliminating the pregame stick check and resetting the shot clock to 60 seconds rather than 90 in certain scenarios.

Holmes said the fall season will be an important time to build bonds and learn from each other. 

“We have new girls who weren’t here last year, and people are switching positions, so we’re still establishing that trust and chemistry,” Holmes said. “Throughout the fall, we’ll work on that, and then things should flow more smoothly.”

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Twitter: @charvarnes11, @mkeileen

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