Lacrosse: No. 3 Northwestern sets Saturday silver standard in weekend sweep


Micah Sandy/The Daily Northwestern

Graduate student attacker Hailey Rhatigan darts toward goal. The former Mercer standout scored eight goals in her first two games for Northwestern on Saturday and Sunday.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

No. 3 Northwestern cruised through a busy slate in Ryan Fieldhouse, where it took on Vanderbilt and Youngstown State this weekend.

“We’ve been working for about a week and a half to prepare for these games,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “We want to get better each time we’re out here.”

For the Wildcats (5-1, 0-0 Big Ten), the two matchups were more dependent on margins rather than wins. It was also a special occasion for the team’s veteran players, as Senior Day festivities took place Sunday.

Donning its sleek new gray getups, Amonte Hiller’s team lined up without its top scorer against the Commodores (1-4, 0-0 AAC). Graduate student attacker Izzy Scane was sidelined with a “day-to-day” injury, according to Amonte Hiller, and other scorers needed to step up in her stead.

Senior attackers Erin Coykendall and Dylan Amonte jumpstarted an early NU offensive clinic, propelling the Cats to a 6-2 first quarter lead with two goals apiece in the frame.

“We were moving really well as an offense as a whole,” Coykendall said. “We got all seven people involved and just opened each other up.”

While sophomore midfielder Samantha Smith buried an unassisted effort to extend the advantage to 7-2 early in the second period, Vanderbilt launched a 3-0 run to bring the game back within two goals at the nine-minute mark.

After eight scoreless minutes, graduate student attacker Elle Hansen cut inside toward the cage and converted off a crafty spin to put NU back in front, 8-5.

Coykendall tallied two more scores before graduate student attacker Hailey Rhatigan notched her first two goals for the Cats, sending NU into halftime up 12-6.

The Cats also controlled the third quarter from start to finish, scoring eight unanswered goals to carry a 20-6 lead into the final frame.

“The kids were really sharing the ball well today … and your offensive power really starts with the (defense),” Amonte Hiller said. “The defense played very well … and draw controls were key down the stretch.”

The fourth quarter proved more of the same as the NU defense conceded just one goal, while the Cats’ offense set a new season high mark — Coykendall, Hansen, Amonte, Rhatigan and freshman midfielder Madison Taylor each scored three or more goals in a 24-7 home victory.

The next day, NU pummeled the Penguins (1-5, 0-0 MAC) from the contest’s opening draw, scoring on its first three offensive possessions.

With Scane inactive, Rhatigan once again found herself in the starting lineup. The former Mercer standout deployed a lethal combination of speed and skill to fire home four first frame goals, helping her team build a 13-1 lead after 15 minutes.

“I feel like my game from Mercer to here — whether that was just six months ago — has evolved so much,” Rhatigan said. “I’m doing a lot more to try and work off-ball, which I haven’t really had to do at Mercer.”

Rhatigan opened the second quarter scoring tally just seconds after play resumed, and four different Cats converted the squad’s ensuing four goals. The NU defense held strong, allowing just two shots in the frame, and Amonte Hiller’s group entered halftime with an 18-1 lead.

Since the contest firmly folded into the Cats’ back pocket, a flurry of new faces lined up at every position for NU as the second half began.

Senior midfielder Kiera Shanley notched the first two goals of the third quarter, and freshman attacker Carli Fleisher tallied a goal and an assist to help the Cats extend their lead to 22-2 heading into the final frame.

The fourth quarter proved a low scoring affair, as NU scored twice, and Youngstown State added a goal to cement a 24-3 victory for the Cats.

After the final horn blared, seniors and graduate students were honored for their contributions to the program.

“It’s a good opportunity to celebrate what we’ve done but also what’s to come,” Coykendall said. “We’re looking forward to the rest of the season.”

NU will face more of a test on Friday, as the Cats prepare for a Reading Week tilt against No. 6 Stony Brook at home. The Seawolves (4-0, 0-0 CAA) have three ranked wins under their belt and can score in bunches, meaning NU must not take its non-conference foe lightly.

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Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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