Northwestern looks to stay sharp heading into ALC, NCAA tournament

By Nader Ihmoud

The Northwestern University Wildcats women’s lacrosse team begins postseason play in May, and after playing the toughest schedule in the league, the Wildcats are ready for whatever comes their way.

When Northwestern enters the American Lacrosse Conference Tournament May 3,it will have already faced 12 ranked teams. As of press time, the Wildcats are 10-1 against ranked opponents. The team’s only loss came April 21 against the No. 5 team in the nation, the University of Florida Gators, 8-7.

“When you have a loss like that, it kind of shocks your system a little bit,” said Wildcats Head Coach Kelly Hiller. “You get a little bit more of a sense of urgency in whatever you do, whether it’s groundballs or draw controls, or offensive aggressiveness or defensive aggressiveness.”

The team bounced back April 25 by defeating the No. 6-ranked Notre Dame University Fighting Irish for the 12th straight time, 17-7. The Wildcats outworked their opponent at Lakeside Field, 2311 N. Campus Drive, in Evanston, Ill., where the conditions were anything but kind to the players.

“We knew this game would show a lot about our team and see how we respond to adversity,” said senior goalie Brianne LoManto following the win against

the Fighting Irish .

After LoManto gave up the first goal of the game, her teammates responded during the rest of the half, dominating Notre Dame on the cold and damp spring night. The Wildcats outshot the Fighting Irish 22-11 and outscored them 12-3 in the first half. Hiller said she liked the energy following the tough loss to the Gators.

“I don’t think we ever like to lose, but hopefully we can continue the response,” she said.

The Wildcats improved to 15-1 on the season following the win and are still the top-ranked team in the country in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association. This is the 63rd time out of 93 possible choices that the team has taken the honor since 2005.

The first round of the NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament begins May 12. The Wildcats have made it to the championship game each of the past seven years and have won the title six of those times.

The No. 1 team in the country is strong in all facets of the game but is particularly well-known for its tenacious defense. LoManto reached 400 saves for her career in the loss against Florida and is as of press time, 57-6 as the starting goalie for the Wildcats.

Junior Taylor Thornton, Northwestern’s top defender and recipient of the 2011 IWLCA Defensive Player of the Year, is also a threat on offense. She has again shown her offensive capability this season, scoring career high 21 goals, as of press time.

Hiller said she wants the team to take it one game at a time, but she understands with the postseason nearing, her players need to play their best. By beating the Fighting Irish, the Wildcats avoided back-to-back losses for the first time since last season.

“Anytime you’re nearing the end of your season, you want to be sharp,” Hiller said. “No matter if we had a loss or didn’t have a loss, that’s the main focus.”