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

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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Cats Corner: Springing ahead to Lacrosse

A beginner’s guide to Northwestern’s women’s lacrosse team.

[music]

JAKE EPSTEIN: Hi, I’m Jake, I’m the sports editor at the Daily, and I know a little bit about lacrosse.

ANITA LI: Hi! I’m Anita, I’m the audio editor, and I know nothing about lacrosse…so we thought we’d end the quarter with a lacrosse preview. So Jake can flex what he knows, and then maybe I’ll hopefully learn something.

ANITA LI: From The Daily Northwestern, this is Anita Li –

JAKE EPSTEIN: and Jake Epstein. Welcome to a new episode of Cats Corner, a podcast about all things sports and purple pride. This week we’re talking about Northwestern’s women’s lacrosse team.

Anita, do you really know nothing about lacrosse?

[music fade out]

ANITA LI: Okay, so I do know a little bit. I know they won the NCAA championship last year, which is such a slay. I got to see one of their games last year, and it was crazy. They’re like flinging this like tiny ball across the field. It’s going out like 200 billion miles an hour. And I love how like fast paced it was. Like it literally felt like if you were blinking too long, you could miss a goal.

But Jake, for the casual beloved Daily listener who might not know a lot about lacrosse, what should they be paying attention to this spring?

JAKE EPSTEIN: Well, I mean, it’s all about the title repeat. Northwestern started up its season on February 10, against Syracuse, the one team that it lost to last season, and they won that season opener. But after that, Northwestern fell to Notre Dame on the road, so it’s kind of a little bit of a redemption arc because they met a little bit of adversity, but now it’s time to really bounce back. So we’ve seen two straight victories over Marquette last week and then they followed it up with a nice victory in Colorado in the snow, braving the elements. But what you want to see is this team has a nice combination of veteran talent, veteran leadership with reigning Tewaaraton winner Izzy Scane, Tewaaraton finalist Erin Coykendall, and a lot of youth who’s ready to step into the fold, including last year’s Big 10 Freshman of the Year, Madison Taylor.

ANITA LI: Wow, that’s a lot of facts. A lot of really cool facts. So, you seem really into this. How were you like first introduced to the world of lacrosse and what keeps you so excited about it?

JAKE EPSTEIN: So, I’m from Maryland, meaning lacrosse is basically, that’s the sport people push-

ANITA LI: Jake, we’re from Maryland.

JAKE EPSTEIN: Yeah, we’re from Maryland. You know, lacrosse is the sport out in Maryland. When I got to cover that team last winter, it was like, ‘wow, this team is incredible,’ and anything I can do to keep covering them, I will do it. So, it’s been great following along with this team for two seasons, and all the storylines that have unfolded have been really amazing. There’s so much more than meets the eye.

ANITA LI: So when Northwestern plays Maryland, Who are you rooting for?

JAKE EPSTEIN: Northwestern. Next question.

ANITA LI: What are some tips we should know or advice we should have to like appreciate the beauty of lacrosse for a beginner?

JAKE EPSTEIN: Alright, so this season, there’s going to be a lot of whistles. Especially, there’s gonna be a lot of cards with the new green card rules, but you’re just going to want to watch and think of it sort of like any game with two goals, a ball, it’s similar rules, similar tactics.

You’re going to want to look out onto that field. Number 27, Izzy Scane, is the best player in the nation and there’s no doubt about it. Now this season, she’s had to adjust a little bit with her game with new rules. The ride isn’t as effective, but she’s been balling at five goals against Colorado in that last game. And I think that the momentum is only going to carry over and she’s going to continue scoring at will.

But what else are you gonna want to see? You’re gonna want to look out on that field. Look for number two, Erin Coykendall, another incredible performer. One of the top feeders in the nation, but she can score some highlight reel goals as well. But for those behind the back snipes, those are incredible. I know my friends over in the stands, the old alumni section, they call it “The Coyk,” and when she unfolds that, it’s a beauty to see unleashed. That behind the back is something special.

You’re going to look across the way. You’re gonna see a husband-wife coaching duo of Kelly Amonte Hiller and her husband Scott Hiller, devising some of the best game plans in the nation. That team has the ability to adapt in second halves in a way that I haven’t seen in pretty much any sport. And it happens time and time again, not so much early in the season, but it did happen against Colorado and it will continue to happen.

What are you going to see, Anita? Well, you’re just going to see some greatness unfold before your eyes. Just sit back. The rules will come as you watch more, but, it’s just, you’re watching the highest level of athletes compete against some of the best teams in the nation, all within a stone’s throw of the city of Chicago. It’s amazing. This is the East Coast dominated sport traditionally, and we’re seeing the Midwest pack some of the top talent in the nation. And that’s truly something amazing to see right before your eyes.

ANITA LI: What makes this team so incredible and what has been, let’s say, your favorite storyline to follow?

JAKE EPSTEIN: Whoa you’re gonna make me choose. Damn, what makes this team so incredible? The attack is the most high-octane attack in the country, at least it was last season. They’re still ironing out some of the kinks of that early season adjustment where you lose two of your top attackers in Elle Hansen and Hailey Rhatigan to graduation, but they got dynamic transfers in with Lindsay Frank, Mary Schumar’s starting to come into her own, out of Marquette.

But the midfield itself is amazing as well. You got Sam Smith, a draw savant, out there. She’s a stud in the circle. Of course, they’ve got Maddy Taylor to help out in the circle. Sammy White will be there too, arguably the top defender in the nation. She battled back from an offseason injury this fall, and she’s back ready to play at full speed, which is always great to see. She’s one of the most exciting players in college lacrosse. I would have to say she has the most versatile skill set in the nation. What’s my favorite? Oh, of course, there’s Molly Laliberty between the pipes. The sixth year goaltender by way of Tufts University out in Massachusetts. She’s incredible too.

What’s my favorite storyline of this team? I just think it has to be the resilience and wherewithal of Kelly Amonte Hiller, to come back after an 11 year title drought and win her eighth national title in 2023 after not winning since 2012. To see how the game’s adjusted since then and to see how she still found a way to adjust, found a way to adapt and stay at the top of the sport is really incredible. She is, whenever you speak to her, she eats, sleeps and breathes lacrosse. And you can see whenever she speaks, it’s a game that she has been with her whole life. And it’s definitely amazing to watch from a coverage standpoint.

ANITA LI: What are your predictions for the season?

JAKE EPSTEIN: Northwestern will repeat as Big 10 champions. I think that Michigan’s a very solid team. I think Maryland’s a very solid team, but Northwestern has that extra edge and they’re going to find it later on in the year. And I just don’t see a team out there that is comprehensive enough, in terms of a talent standpoint, to stand in Northwestern’s way on its quest to national title number nine, which would make Kelly Amonte Hiller have the most Division I national championships as a coach, which would pass Cindy Timchal, her mentor and the current head coach of Navy.

ANITA LI: If you had to say in like one sentence to try to convince someone to come to a Northwestern lacrosse game this spring, what would you tell them?

JAKE EPSTEIN: This is the best team on campus and the atmosphere when you watch these games is unmatched.

ANITA LI: Wow, wait, so tell me about that. Like what are these games like?

JAKE EPSTEIN: Well, you’re at the Ryan Fieldhouse, which is the team’s home field for the early part of their season’s slate, so early spring before they end up going outside to Martin Stadium. The bleachers are set right on top of the field, so the action is right before your eyes. There’s not much separation from the players and the crowd is absolutely intense. There’s youth players all over the place watching their idols, some of the best players in the world right out there in front of them. The players’ parents all make the trip out for the games and they wear lanyards with their kids’ faces on them, so that’s always really cool.

There’s a section of old Northwestern alumni who all come out to every single game and they have their own chants for every single play. Even yellow cards for the opposing team, they yell “Lake, Lake, Lake.” There’s just so many different aspects of these games, that is incredible. And even the opposing fans show out in flocks to come to watch the team play and truly, I’ve never experienced a sporting event quite like Northwestern lacrosse games, and it’s so fun to be there.

It’s simply, it’s something that you have to be there to watch unfold, because I can explain it, I can give you all these words, but being there, being in person, it’s just another level that transcends what I can say about this team.

ANITA LI: You mentioned that like, the energy in here is like, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. But this season, they’re also going to a lot of away games. What does that mean for both the team and for like Northwestern students who want to get a glimpse of this awesome team?

JAKE EPSTEIN: Well, a lot of their games you can watch on Big Ten Plus when we get into conference play, which will be later in the season. But what the sport’s really made great strides to do is to have television access, to have some form of coverage for every single game that they’re playing that season. Now, that does mean some of these games are going to be played noon on weekdays, but I’m going to tell you, it’s worth pulling up that tab and your class following along as they compete against Boston College at 3pm this Thursday. I would, if I was in a class, which I will be, I’m gonna be following along anyway because this team, and even the opponents they play, this Boston College team is arguably the best team in the country until proven otherwise, and I think it will be proven otherwise this Thursday when Northwestern knocks off the number one ranked team in the nation. Even though Boston College did get a slew of amazing transfers, including Emma LoPinto and Rachel Clark, I still think Northwestern is going to have that extra edge. They’re gonna knock off Boston College in the elements on Thursday.

[music]

JAKE EPSTEIN: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Jake Epstein.

ANITA LI: And I’m Anita Li. Thanks for listening to another episode of Cats Corner. This episode was reported by Jake Epstein and Anita Li. And produced by Anavi Prakash. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Anita Li, the digital managing editors are Ashley Lee and Micah Sandy, and the editor in chief is Avani Kalra. Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear more episodes like this.

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Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @Jakeepste1n

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @anavi_52

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Twitter: @lifeisfab02

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