The Daily’s sports desk is back to update you on the Cats’ seven programs in season. (Illustration by Shveta Shah)
The Daily’s sports desk is back to update you on the Cats’ seven programs in season.

Illustration by Shveta Shah

Allow me to reintroduce myself: It’s time for Northwestern’s spring sports

April 3, 2023

There’s a lot to look forward to in the spring at Northwestern — warm weather, Dillo Day, turning into a beach school, the list goes on and on.

The most important of them all, though? Spring sports!

The Daily’s Spring Sports Preview offered a great introduction for what’s to come in the last third of sports, whether it be in Ryan Fieldhouse, out on Sharon J. Drysdale Field’s softball diamond, in Rocky and Berenice Miller Park or at Lanny and Sharon Martin Stadium.

Now, a month and half later, The Daily’s sports desk is back to update you on the Cats’ seven programs in season — lacrosse, softball, baseball, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, men’s golf and women’s golf.

Below is what everyone has been waiting for: a reintroduction to NU’s spring sports.

— Sports Editor Lawrence Price


Lacrosse: No. 2 Northwestern soars into a class of its own

After dropping a season opening shootout at Syracuse on Feb. 11, No. 2 Northwestern punched back in a major way, conjuring up hopes of an eighth national title.

The Wildcats (11-1, 3-0 Big Ten) took the opening loss as fuel, launching an 11-game winning streak. The team notched three top-five wins in that span, defeating then-No. 3 Boston College, then-No. 4 Stony Brook and then-No. 1 North Carolina.

The nation’s number one scoring offense is built by its star-studded scoring squad: graduate student attacker Izzy Scane, senior attacker Erin Coykendall, graduate student attacker Hailey Rhatigan and freshman midfielder Madison Taylor. The group combined for 149 of the team’s 217 goals.

Scane and Coykendall have played crucial offensive roles for several years and bring unmatched chemistry to the team. The ‘Scane Train’ leads the country with 60 goals in just 10 games, and Coykendall possesses a patented behind-the-back ability that makes highlight plays look easy.

While Rhatigan and Taylor are new additions to the group, they both made an instant impact on both sides of the ball. Rhatigan combines a tireless motor with a quick burst and a lethal left handed riser that solidified a standout career at Mercer. Taylor brilliantly blends the gutsy Long Island brand of lacrosse with a smooth scoring touch.

The NU defense appeared shaky out of the gates, but coach Kelly Amonte Hiller’s decision to move sophomore midfielder and defender Samantha White back into a more defensive role transcended the team. White and junior midfielder Kendall Halpern head a stingy defensive unit that hasn’t surrendered double digit goals since a Feb. 23 tilt at Marquette.

On top of that, graduate student goalkeeper Molly Laliberty brings a swagger and tenacity between the pipes that breeds acrobatic saves and a fiery presence.

With elite talent across the board, and a passionate, dedicated fanbase, the ‘Lake Show’ is a must watch this spring.

— Assistant Sports Editor Jake Epstein


Softball: Northwestern aims to continue win streak ahead of Iowa series on the road

While Northwestern faced some adversity at the start of the season at its opening tournaments in Clearwater, Florida, and Clemson, South Carolina, the squad has since found its rhythm. Currently, NU holds an eight-game win streak ahead of a conference battle at Iowa.

The Wildcats (20-9, 5-1 Big Ten) have hit the ground running since the official start to the spring season at Sharon J. Drysdale Field. After defeating competitors like No. 19 Auburn, UIC and Minnesota, NU must continue its success in order to make another appearance at the College World Series.

Backed by the return of four graduate players in pitcher Danielle Williams, catcher Jordyn Rudd, infielder Maeve Nelson and outfielder Skyler Shellmeyer, there’s much hope that the Cats will finish right where they left off in 2022.

Currently sitting in a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten standings, NU’s undefeated conference streak ended this weekend after losing the second game of the doubleheader to Iowa Sunday afternoon. Although they won the series 2-1, the Cats dropping the last contest shattered their run in the win column.

With multiple big conference face offs still ahead against Rutgers, Nebraska and Michigan, NU must secure critical wins early this season in preparation for the long road to the postseason.

— Assistant Sports Editor Skye Swann


Women’s Golf: No. 16 Northwestern enjoys recent tournament win, climbs up national rankings

Northwestern is riding high.

The Wildcats have been performing at an elite level, capped off by their tournament win at PING/ASU Invitational on Sunday. Finishing above seven top-15 ranked teams, NU earned its first team tournament victory since the 2019-2020 season and moved up seven spots to No. 16 in the national rankings.

After beginning the 2022-2023 season ranked outside the top 50, the Cats concluded their bumpy fall tournament season smoothly with two straight top-10 finishes. Better yet, they entered the new year with renewed confidence.

This resulted in a record-breaking performance at the UCF Challenge in February, where NU achieved its best 54-hole score and two best team rounds in program history. Reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Lauryn Nguyen tied the program record for best individual round with a score of 64 — on her way to being named Big Ten Golfer of the Week. The Cats followed up with a runner-up finish at the Moon Golf Invitational later that month.

In addition to Nguyen, NU has relied on a group of All-Big Ten caliber golfers including graduate student Kelly Sim, freshman Dianna Lee and junior Jieni Li. Sim logged NU’s first individual tournament win at the 2023 PING/ASU Invitational since her own win at the same tournament in 2021, earning the Big Ten Golfer of the Week award for her fourth year in a row.

The Cats look to carry their success into the Silverado Showdown starting April 3rd.

— Devo Editor Lucas Kim


Men’s Tennis: Wildcats look to continue strong season as they dive into conference play

Following an impressive start to the season, the men’s tennis team is hoping they’ll be able to bring all the pieces together as their season continues this spring.

The Wildcats are staring down a Big 10 slate for most of the rest of the regular season, preparing to improve on their 3-1 conference record. Their lineups saw a bit of change in recent weeks in both singles and doubles, but have consistently been led by 54th-ranked graduate student Steven Forman in singles. A talented cohort of younger players are also making big contributions on the lower courts.

Strong showings in their upcoming conference matches, especially against talented University of Illinois and University of Michigan, could help the Wildcats rise higher than their current team ranking of 24th –– they reached as high as 12th earlier in the season. As NU looks to return to that higher side of the rankings, they hope to make a deep run in May’s NCAA tournament.

— Audience Engagement Editor Alyce Brown


Men’s Golf: No. 31 Northwestern builds on impressive fall tournaments with strong individual performances

Coming off a fourth-place team finish at the Big Ten Championships last season, Northwestern enjoyed a string of stellar fall tournament outings that included four consecutive top-five finishes and a first-place finish at the Windon Memorial in September.

The Wildcats carried their success into 2023, placing second in Big Ten Match Play in February. Since then, however, NU’s last three tournaments have ended in mixed results. After placing fifth at The Prestige in February and second at the Wake Forest Invitational in March, the Cats failed to make the top 10 at the Valspar Collegiate on Tuesday, finishing 12th.

Now, NU is ranked No. 31 in the nation after starting the 2022-2023 season ranked outside the top 50. The squad is led by a core of strong performers including reigning Big Ten Champion and graduate student David Nyfjäll, freshman Daniel Svärd and senior James Imai. All three golfers have logged top-four tournament finishes this season.

The Cats’ next tournament will be in Virginia for the Lewis Chitengwa Memorial starting April 10.

— Devo Editor Lucas Kim


Women’s Tennis: Northwestern looks to shake off bumpy start as Big Ten play starts

Following a first round exit to Wake Forest in the NCAA Tournament last May, Northwestern returned several key pieces ahead of the 2023 duals season, with sights set on securing the program’s 27th consecutive tournament appearance.

Despite the departures of Clarissa Hand and Ema Lazic, coach Claire Pollard’s squad saw the return of several staples, notably junior Maria Shusharina, seniors Christina Hand, Justine Leong and Briana Crowley and sophomore Sydney Pratt.

However, the first two and a half months of spring play have been anything but smooth. After a 3-2 start to the season, the Wildcats (5-10, 1-2 Big Ten) have absorbed several bumps in the road, including a recent skid dropping six of its last seven matches.

But now, with non-conference play wrapped up, the Cats can shift focus solely to conference opponents, including a pair of matches Saturday and Sunday against No. 5 Michigan and Michigan State respectively.

— Senior Staffer Alex Cervantes


Baseball: Northwestern looks to turnaround tumultuous start to 2023 season

Northwestern’s offseason changes meant either two things — a step up or a step back.

With the losses of multiple Big Ten honorees and veterans, and the hiring of then-Army coach Jim Foster, the jury was still out on what the Cats’ 2023 campaign would amount to.

Sadly, NU has been unable to move in a positive direction, instead trending toward another losing season. Heading out of state to begin most of their gameplay, the Cats lost their first 12 contests of the season.

After five weeks without touching the win column, the program finally gasped for air, defeating Butler 5-1 — only to go on a five game losing streak. Currently, NU sits at 3-19.

Although the bats have struggled to warm up at the plate, sitting 12th in Big Ten batting average, the Cats’ performances on the mound have been far from stellar as well, holding the worst ERA in the conference at 9.64.

Granted, the roster looks much different than last year. Most starters this season either didn’t see the diamond in 2022 or weren’t on the team, so they deserve some slack. Though the Cats’ victory last Tuesday wasn’t the prettiest — botching an 8-0 lead versus Northern Illinois only to come back and win 15-11 — a win is a win. And although they only won one out of three games this past weekend against Purdue, hopefully the two wins in a week are an indication that better days are to come.

— Sports Editor Lawrence Price

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Related Stories:
Baseball: Northwestern drops opening Big Ten series to Purdue
Men’s Tennis: Northwestern knocks down Indiana and Purdue in dominant conference victories
Spring Sports Preview 2023