Lacrosse: No. 3 Northwestern defeats Penn State, Penn in weekend slate


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Graduate midfielder Jill Girardi takes the ball down field. Girardi played a pivotal offensive role in Northwestern’s weekend wins.

Charlotte Varnes, Social Media Editor


Up seven goals against Penn State, Northwestern was rolling.

A behind-the-back pass from junior attacker Erin Coykendall to graduate midfielder Jill Girardi only built the Wildcats’ momentum. Girardi took advantage of the look, swiftly shooting to put NU up 13-5 and pave the way to a smooth, 11-goal victory against the Nittany Lions.

The win kicked off an impressive weekend showing for NU in Pennsylvania. The Wildcats went 2-0, defeating Penn State 17-6 Friday and Penn 17-9 Sunday.

“Our team brought incredible energy, particularly against Penn State,” graduate attacker Lauren Gilbert said. “That’s what allowed us to jump out to an early lead and sustain that throughout the game. It was really important for us to make statements this weekend with convincing wins and I think we did that.”

NU dominated the Nittany Lions from the start of the game. The Wildcats jumped out to a 5-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game, and kept adding to it, holding a six-goal lead by halftime.

Like Gilbert, coach Kelly Amonte Hiller credited the team’s victory to its strong energy. NU made strong connections throughout the night, she said.

Coykendall and Girardi led the Wildcats with five goals each on Friday. Girardi also looked powerful on the draw, tying her career-high of 13 draw controls to give NU the advantage. Her Friday performance continued to set her apart on the national level as well. She ranks third nationally in draw controls per game and the team ranks seventh nationally in team draw controls per game.

“(Girardi) has been incredible all around, but really dominant in the draw circle,” Gilbert said. “It sets the tone. We need possessions in order to score and beat teams, so (we’re) really proud of what she’s doing there.”

A road trip to Philadelphia later, the Wildcats took the field at Penn on Sunday. NU started off slower against the Quakers, only leading by two at the end of the first quarter. By halftime, however, it held a four-goal lead.

The Wildcats were fatigued after the game against Penn State on Friday, Amonte Hiller said. Still, NU took advantage of opportunities to go on runs, she said, and during halftime, she encouraged the team to maintain momentum.

“Penn is a well-coached team,” Amonte Hiller said. “They are always fighters. They don’t go away. We knew that, and we wanted to start the second half with a strong mentality and a strong sense of energy and purpose.”

From there, the Wildcats hit the ground running. Amonte Hiller said sophomore midfielder Carleigh Mahoney “set the tone,” opening up NU’s 5-0 run in the third. By the end of the quarter, the Wildcats held a 10-goal lead, powered by goals from five different players during the third.

While Penn outscored NU 5-3 in the fourth quarter, the damage was already done. The Wildcats walked away with their second win of the weekend and a dominant, non-conference victory.

In both matchups, NU’s defense shone. The Wildcats held Penn State scoreless for 23 minutes and the Quakers scoreless for 26 minutes — nearly half of the game. Senior goalkeeper Madison Doucette notched nine saves against the Nittany Lions and eight against Penn, anchoring NU’s unit.

Doucette has only improved since the Wildcats’ double-digit loss to UNC in early March, Amonte Hiller said. In that contest, she allowed 13 goals and only made four saves. Since then, she’s hit her stride and played a key role in powering NU to a 6-0 record.

“She’s been unreal,” Amonte Hiller said. “She just has been getting better and better… She has been finding her confidence and the (defense) has been (too). When you get all pieces of the puzzle going in the right direction, you can do some really great things out there.”

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Twitter: @charvarnes11

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