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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Lacrosse: No. 4 Northwestern’s Samantha Smith shores up draw against Marquette

Henry Frieman/The Daily Northwestern
Junior midfielder Samantha Smith gets set against Marquette Monday. Smith corralled five draw controls versus the Golden Eagles.

When coach Kelly Amonte Hiller’s squad sauntered into South Bend, Indiana on the back of a 22-game winning streak last Friday, then-No. 8 Notre Dame knocked the reigning national champions off their perch. Fighting Irish midfielder Kelly Denes dominated the draw, and the visitors shot themselves in the foot with 21 turnovers.

“Friday night was really frustrating. Notre Dame did an amazing job on the draw,” Amonte Hiller said. “We talked as a draw group, we got some things sorted out.” 

With Monday’s sunset painting a picturesque, polychromatic scene overtop Lake Michigan, No. 4 Northwestern geared up for the dictionary definition of a getback game against Marquette. Behind junior midfielder Samantha Smith’s dominant draw display, the Wildcats (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten) blew past the Golden Eagles (1-2, 0-0 Big East) in a 21-3 boat race. 

During Friday’s loss, Smith didn’t record a draw control and gave away three turnovers. NU lost the draw battle 20-8 in its first loss in more than a year. Despite Smith’s struggles, Amonte Hiller said her confidence in the junior never wavered.

“Sam’s talent level is unreal, her (competitiveness) is unreal,” Amonte Hiller said. “We were very confident that she would bounce back and do great things in the draw circle.”

Smith said she immediately went back to the drawing board after last week’s loss. The 2023 first-team All-Big Ten honoree, who hauled in a team-high 121 draw controls last season, took the letdown at Loftus Sports Center as a learning experience.

Once she returned to the practice field and film room, Smith said she hyper-focused on her preparation for Marquette’s draw squad.

“My preparation was a lot more intentional this time,” Smith said. “This time I was really focused on what Marquette does, and what I can do — just over preparing. (I was) making sure that when I stepped in that draw circle, I (knew) what’s going to happen, where the ball was going to go and I’m able to win it.”

The ‘Cats comprehensively capitalized on Smith’s approach to Monday’s draw circle, winning eight of nine first-quarter draws. Smith redirected the game’s opening draw to sophomore attacker Madison Taylor. The junior then pulled down her first of five draw controls less than a minute later.

With a significant possessional advantage, NU built a 7-1 lead in the game’s opening 15 minutes.

While she scorched the back of the net with her third goal of the year, Smith pulled down three draw controls during the opening period, setting the standard for her team’s draw trio as the hosts’ primary draw taker. 

For Smith, swift success in the circle helped her and the ‘Cats reset from their loss — befitting one of her veteran coach’s most tested mantras.

“Something we really focus on as a team is resetting and moving on — looking back and figuring out what we could do better, analyzing the game, seeing where we made mistakes and moving forward,” Smith said. “We really worked to move past that (Notre Dame) game and just play our hardest today.”

Sharing draw reps with her younger sister freshman midfielder Madison Smith and junior midfielder Serafina DeMunno, the elder Smith sister has clearly solidified her role as Amonte Hiller’s top-choice draw taker.

She said taking the field with her summer draw-taking partner and sister is a “dream come true.”

“She and I have been playing lacrosse together since we were babies,” Smith said. “To get to play on such a big stage together to get to teach her and have her teach me … and just being able to work together with the draw … is just incredible.”

Putting last week’s result firmly in the backburner with a turnover-free showing against the Golden Eagles, Smith once again lived up to her Tewaaraton Watch List billing. The purple and white’s midfield maestro tallied two points and helped solidify a 13-3 draw advantage in the contest’s first half.

Amonte Hiller said Smith’s resilient performance embodies the topsy-turvy nature of the draw.

“It’s something that you have to be resilient, being a draw person, because there’s always ups and downs,” Amonte Hiller said. “We talked about that, and she did a great job today. (I’m) really proud of her.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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