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

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

The Daily Northwestern

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Lacrosse: No. 4 Northwestern readies for road clash against No. 20 Colorado

Daily file photo by Henry Frieman
Northwestern’s attack celebrates a goal against Marquette Monday. The ‘Cats will face No. 20 Colorado in Boulder Thursday.

Three days after thrashing Marquette 21-3, No. 4 Northwestern will take on No. 20 Colorado in the first of a two-game road spell Thursday. The Boulder-based battle marks the first regular season matchup between the two teams since 2018.

The nonconference foes — who last met in a 2023 preseason scrimmage at the hosts’ indoor practice facility — make up two of just four top-25 ranked teams located outside the Eastern time zone. 

Although the Wildcats (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten) carry a 3-1 advantage in the squads’ all-time series, the Buffaloes (3-0, 0-0 PAC-12) took their only home contest against NU in an 11-10 overtime triumph seven seasons ago.

Colorado’s campaign began with a close 16-15 defeat of Louisville before the Buffaloes knocked off then-No. 14 Penn State for their first top-15 road victory since 2019 — the same season when Colorado coach Ann Elliott Whidden’s team last made an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Fresh off last Sunday’s victory in a Philadelphia defensive dogfight against Saint Joseph’s, Colorado looks to lock up its best start to a season since 2022 and first victory over a top-10 team since a March 2017 takedown of then-No. 6 Penn State.

With the ‘Cats seeking another opportunity to put their South Bend struggles firmly on the backburner, Thursday morning’s mountainous melee at Kittredge Field promises to be a barnburner between two tournament-caliber teams. 

Here are a few storylines to monitor as NU travels west for a duel in the Rocky Mountains.

Several familiar faces on the opposing sideline

Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller boasts one of the sport’s most extensive coaching trees, so it’s no surprise to see a former Wildcat spanning the opposing sideline. Elliott Whidden graduated from NU in 2007, winning three consecutive national titles and spearheading Amonte Hiller’s stout defense.

After her career with the ‘Cats, Elliott Whidden coached for Amonte Hiller’s Wildcat Elite club and served as an assistant coach at New Trier High School in 2008. She returned to Amonte Hiller’s coaching staff as an assistant in 2009, where she’d win three more national titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

Elliott Whidden assumed the Buffaloes’ helm in March 2012 as the program’s inaugural head coach and hasn’t looked back since. Eyeing a proverbial program resurgence, Elliott Whidden targeted a familiar face from NU.

Colorado attacker Eve Hritzuk arrived in Boulder this past fall after four seasons with the ‘Cats. Hritzuk played a reserve role on the Lake Show, appearing in 13 games during the 2023 season.

The Alberta, Canada native took the change of scenery in stride, scoring six goals — including the game winner — and adding an assist in the season opener. Hritzuk has tallied at least a point in three starts, recording eight goals and two assists.

Expect Hritzuk to play a pivotal role in both the attack and on the draw circle Thursday.

Player to watch: sophomore midfielder Jess Peluso

Following a stellar freshman season with the Buffaloes, Colorado midfielder Jess Peluso seems to have taken the essential second-year leap at this early juncture. An East Islip, New York product, Peluso was a proven program centerpiece on Long Island — and she’s solidifying her role as a gritty player whose impact transcends stat sheets.

Last season, Peluso scooped 19 ground balls and racked up 10 caused turnovers in 17 appearances. Now, she’s set to see those figures skyrocket in 2024. 

Nabbing six caused turnovers and four ground balls in three starts, the reigning PAC-12 defensive player of the week will look to complicate matters for the ‘Cats Thursday.

NU’s key to victory — get Taylor involved early and often

Surprisingly, Amonte Hiller’s most lethal attacking threat — disregarding dangers to cameramen behind the cage — hasn’t been graduate student attacker Izzy Scane or Erin Coykendall.

Instead, sophomore attacker Madison Taylor has carried over her fiery freshman form and presented a downright unstoppable dimension at times. Taylor said she’s been “focusing on the little things” this season and playing for her teammates. 

With a team-high 10 goals and five assists thus far, she’s surely reaped the rewards of her approach. Fresh off a four-goal, two-assist display against Marquette Monday, Taylor will once again be expected to spark significant scoring production Thursday. 

The ‘Cats are at their best when the Wantagh, New York native sets the game’s tempo and showcases her blistering speed in open space. While she’s had the tendency to have quiet spurts, NU should look her way from the opening draw.

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Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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