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. 3 Northwestern’s Sammy White makes long-awaited return in 22-11 victory over Rutgers

Henry Frieman/The Daily Northwestern
Junior defender Sammy White attempts to evade Rutgers midfielder Cassidy Spilis during Saturday night’s game. White made her return against the Scarlet Knights after missing six consecutive games with a lower-body injury.

Junior defender Sammy White entered the 2024 campaign with lofty expectations, eyeing a potential Tewaaraton finalist honor. She was a program centerpiece during Northwestern’s 2023 ascent to the collegiate landscape’s peak, and all signs pointed toward individual dominance during her squad’s title defense.

“I have really high goals and expectations for myself,” White told The Daily during preseason. “I just try to be the best defender, person, player, teammate every time I step on that field.”

The most valuable player of last season’s National Championship Game, White fought through an offseason achilles injury to start the Wildcats’ Feb. 11 season-opener against Syracuse. She anchored a stout defensive unit in early nonconference competition, finding consistency alongside senior defenders Carleigh Mahoney and Kendall Halpern.

However, White’s season stumbled into a firm roadblock just five games into the year. After White and her teammates toppled then-No. 1 Boston College, she was sidelined with a walking boot on her right foot. White missed six consecutive games due to the injury.

“It was definitely not what I expected for this season, but it gave me a different perspective,” White said postgame. “I was able to help the girls on defense (from) the sideline.” 

As one of the nation’s premier defensive talents finding herself out of commission, White said sitting idly on the bench was not an option.  

A youth club coach at Sky Walkers Lacrosse, White put her summer gig into practice as another coaching asset for coach Kelly Amonte Hiller’s staff.

“I had an iPad on the sideline, and I was able to show the girls coming off the field what happened (and) help the girls on the field,” White said. “So, it was definitely difficult, but I think I still tried to make myself a part of the defense while being sidelined.”

After more than a month removed from game action, White received the all-clear for a Rutgers return this past Thursday.

For White, much of the rehabilitation process fell out of her control. She said there was not much she could do to speed her recovery besides rest and icing her injury.

Saturday night, though, she was back where she called the shots, helping NU secure a comprehensive 22-11 conference victory over the Scarlet Knights at Ryan Fieldhouse.

“We really came out to play tonight,” White said. “I mean, what’s better than a night game on a Saturday in Ryan Fieldhouse? We were all ready, we were prepared and we had a lot of fun today.”

White played every minute of the first three quarters, departing the matchup once the result was all said and done in the final frame. She tallied two caused turnovers and pulled down a pair of draw controls.

Amonte Hiller said White’s return will prove invaluable down the stretch.

“Anytime you can get someone back who’s got so much experience like Sammy — and has played in big moments — it is a true asset,” Amonte Hiller said. “In her absence, we had a lot of great players step up. So, that’s helped us create depth (among) the defensive unit.”

White and the ’Cats will hit the road for a College Park clash against No. 1 Maryland next Saturday in a battle of perennial Big Ten powerhouses. The margin of error in conference play is especially slim this season, and NU’s next test will be especially decisive in league standings.

Terrapin coach Cathy Reese attempted to land the star junior defender out of local Dulaney High School in her 2021 recruiting class, but White opted to pave her own path and don the purple and white. 

She said facing off against Maryland certainly creates extra motivation.

“They’re always a very hard team to play,” White said. “I’m really excited to have a lot of people from back home come and watch me play. … Playing at Maryland is always a fun challenge, so I’m just really excited to do that.”

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