Lacrosse: What To Watch For: No. 3 Northwestern seeks successful senior send-off


Daily file photo by Angeli Mittal

Senior attacker Hannah Gillespie warms up prior to game action. Gillespie has started all four games this season.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

After pouring in 21 goals in a victory at Marquette on Feb. 23, No. 3 Northwestern will look to continue its winning ways at home against Vanderbilt and Youngstown State on Saturday and Sunday.

The Wildcats (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) haven’t batted an eye since their season-opening loss at Syracuse on Feb. 11, and all signs point toward a weekend sweep at Ryan Fieldhouse.

Graduate student attacker Izzy Scane and the potent NU offense appear primed for another high-scoring affair against the Commodores (1-3, 0-0 AAC), who have conceded double-digit scores in all four games this season. Vanderbilt dropped its past three contests and will need to elevate its game by several notches to keep the matchup competitive.

The Cats then look to turn up the heat against the Penguins (1-3, 0-0 MAC), who also leak goals defensively. Since this is a senior day tie, coach Kelly Amonte Hiller will likely feature her veteran players extensively.

Here’s three takeaways to keep in mind as NU guns for two home victories this weekend.

1. Is the best defense a good offense?

The Cats know how to light up the scoreboard. Amonte Hiller’s squad has registered 15-plus goals in all four contests this season, including a 21-goal onslaught last time out.

With Scane conducting the Lake Show and firing home 27 goals on the season so far, the NU attack shows no signs of relenting. 

Four other players have notched 10-plus points on the young season, including freshman midfielder Madison Taylor, who instantly impacted the team’s scoring output by tallying 12 goals in four games.

While the defensive effort has been less than stellar at times, the Cats’ scorers leave plenty of room for error and will look to take advantage of two dodgy defensive units this weekend.

Fans of defense may wish to avert their eyes, for goals, goals and more goals are on the menu at Ryan Fieldhouse.

 2. Erin’s expected epoch

Senior attacker Erin Coykendall is entering the weekend fresh off an eight-point performance at Marquette, where she rattled in four goals and dished out four assists.

The senior attacker will have extra incentive to make an impact this weekend, since Senior Day is scheduled rather early for the Lake Show. 

Possessing a powerful shot and an uncanny ability to effortlessly execute circus passes, Coykendall will play a vital role in NU’s success. Expect her to pour in points this weekend — and throw in some showmanship for good measure.

3. A showcase of old and new faces

Given that Sunday is Senior Day and the Cats enter the contest heavily favored, Amonte Hiller will likely throw her veteran players into the spotlight. 

NU will celebrate 11 of its seniors against Youngstown State, meaning several players who haven’t seen much game action this season will have an opportunity to shine against the Penguins. 

Coykendall and senior attacker Dylan Amonte serve as attacking mainstays for the team and will certainly carry over their hefty role this weekend. Senior attacker Hannah Gillespie will continue to be a workhouse for the Cats, but other seniors will step into the fold for their first significant minutes this season.

Make no mistake, though: Amonte Hiller wants to win. Expect Taylor — the three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week — to continue her dominant rookie campaign. Sophomore midfielder and defender Samantha White and sophomore midfielder Samantha Smith will join her in solidifying a strong young core that has been crucial to NU’s early season success.

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Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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