Lacrosse: No. 3 Northwestern overcomes narrow first half, rolls Johns Hopkins

Charlotte Varnes, Social Media Editor


When Northwestern faced Johns Hopkins on Saturday in a Senior Day battle, graduate attacker Lauren Gilbert fittingly stole the show.

Gilbert was seemingly everywhere: cutting through the eight-meter arc at lightning speed to help the Wildcats jump to an early 2-0 lead; spinning and dodging past her defender to give NU a 7-6 lead at halftime; sneaking past the crease and diving to the ground to put the Wildcats up 17-9 in the fourth quarter.

In the third quarter, however, she and her fellow graduate students shared the spotlight to keep NU in the game. Gilbert, alongside graduate midfielders Jill Girardi and Brennan Dwyer, scored a combined four goals of NU’s eight-goal outbreak during the period.

“(The graduate students and seniors are) really the heart and soul of this team,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “We have good youth as well, but to have these guys perform and do their thing, it’s been great.”

Their efforts powered the Wildcats (13-2, 5-0 Big Ten) past Johns Hopkins (8-7, 0-4 Big Ten), paving the way to a smooth 19-12 victory despite a bumpy first half.

Amonte Hiller said she expected the Blue Jays, who remain winless in Big Ten play, to enter the game with “desperation” because of their conference standing. So NU prepared for a tough matchup.

“We wanted to play hard and focus on ourselves,” Amonte Hiller said. “We knew they were going to put up a great fight, and we had to wear them down.”

The Blue Jays kept pace with the Wildcats throughout the first half, scoring three times in a row in the second quarter to tie up the game 6-6. Their play off the draw circle wasn’t quite as even with NU, winning five draws to the Cats’ nine during the first half. But Johns Hopkins’ wins still played an important role in trading blows with NU, which ranks third nationally in draw controls per game, and its success on the circle in the first half.

Even as NU struggled to take control in the first half, their upperclassmen buoyed them through. Girardi and Gilbert scored twice in the first half, while Dwyer tallied one goal. Senior goalkeeper Madison Doucette anchored the defense, recording four saves through the first half.

During the break, NU focused mainly on tactical, offensive improvements. The Wildcats recorded eight turnovers during the first quarter, and Girardi said the team wanted to fix that right away. Beyond that, she said members also emphasized playing as a team and “connecting on all cylinders.”

From there, NU took over. The Wildcats outscored the Blue Jays 8-2 in the third quarter, before recording an even, 4-4 fourth quarter.

Girardi’s strong third quarter on the draw played a key role in NU’s surge. She recorded seven draw controls during the period — a big improvement from winning just one in the second quarter — to help the Wildcats gain offensive possessions. Girardi was figuring things out as the game went on, Amonte Hiller said, resulting in “stronger and stronger” play off the circle.

By the end of the matchup, the three graduate students — Girardi, Dwyer and Gilbert — plus one senior, attacker Greta Stahl, had all scored. Their efforts earned a big Senior Day win for their classes on the first relatively normal Senior Day since the beginning of the pandemic. Last year, attendance was primarily limited to family members. Girardi said having the support of both fans and family on this season’s Senior Day was exciting.

“It’s nice to have our families all be together and be with us rather than outside with masks on,” Girardi said. “Being able to have a big celebration [with others] rather than just our team is way different [from last year] and brings so much energy to us.”

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Twitter: @charvarnes11

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