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    From Evanston to the North and South Sides, Chicago Honors the Champs

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    There they were, side-by-side on the warning track dirt behind home plate at the Chicago White Sox' U.S. Cellular Field -- perhaps an unlikely locale but as good a spot as any to publically display all seven of Northwestern's NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship trophies together for the first time.

    The sight was enough to catch the attention of any media member, groundskeeper or passerby at field level, even for many of the several hundred Sox fans taking a pre-game stroll on the field as part of a marketing promotion who stopped to offer their congratulations or snap a quick picture with the national champions.

    Watch: NU at the Ballpark | Watch: NU On-Campus Celebration |
    Watch: NU at Evanston City Council

    It was just one memorable moment for the NU women's lacrosse team in what was a bit of a whirlwind week, during which the Wildcats shared their 2012 national championship trophy (and in some cases all seven) with their fans in the Northwestern, Evanston and Chicago communities.

    These are the same fans that turn out in force to Lakeside Field -- where NU averaged just under 1,000 fans per game for its 12 home contests this year -- to cheer on the 'Cats during their quest for perfection. Head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller and her players take advantage of these postseason face-to-face meetings with their supporters to remind them what a privilege they consider it to represent Northwestern University and the city of Chicago in the world of women's lacrosse.


    After making its triumphant Memorial Day return to Evanston for the seventh time in the last eight years, Northwestern's first stop on its celebration tour was a visit two days later to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field. NU's coaching staff joined the six members of the 2012 senior class -- Alex Frank, Brianne LoManto, Jessica Russo, Shannon Smith, Maria Tedeschi and Lacey Vigmostad -- for on-field recognition. The three-time All-American Frank tossed out the ceremonial first pitch with her lacrosse stick, successfully lofting an overhand soft-toss to Cubs rookie infielder Adrian Cardenas.

    Later, as the Wildcats arrived at and departed their seats behind home plate, they were greeted with standing ovations from Cubs faithful in awe of NU's sustained excellence.


    On Friday, Amonte Hiller traveled to the studios of WBEZ, Chicago's National Public Radio station, for an appearance on "The Afternoon Shift" with host Steve Edwards. The interview delved into the entirety of Amonte Hiller's experience at Northwestern, beginning with her early days as head coach when she spent time watching up-close as her older brother, Tony, excelled with the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL.


    With final exams looming after the weekend, the Wildcats took a study break Sunday to hop on a bus to the South Side, where the first-place White Sox were hosting the Seattle Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field. Donning red Sox hats to match the home team's alternate jerseys that day, the 'Cats and their seven trophies were the centerpiece of the game's first pitch in front of an announced crowd of more than 23,000 spectators. The team passed the ball around the infield before Amonte Hiller fired a strike with her first pitch.

    For the record, both the Cubs and White Sox picked up victories on the days NU and their national championship trophies visited their respective ballparks.


    Less than 24 hours later, Amonte Hiller and the Wildcats reconvened on campus at the generous invitation of Dean of Students Burgie Howard, Assistant Dean of Students Betsi Burns and Vice President of Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin. On a picturesque afternoon at the Norris University Center, the team and its trophies were recognized in front of over 100 members of the NU campus community who, as Amonte Hiller pointed out, routinely show up to support the Wildcats in weather conditions far less pleasant than those which they enjoyed on Monday.


    That same evening, the Wildcats eagerly attended an Evanston City Council meeting, where councilmembers were announcing a resolution easily agreed upon by representatives on either side of the aisle. Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl read a lengthy list of the program's accomplishments that are unique not only to women's lacrosse or Northwestern but to all Division I athletics programs in the state of Illinois, before proclaiming June 4, 2012 as Northwestern Women's Lacrosse National Champions Day in Evanston.

    NU representatives on hand were particularly struck by Alderwoman Jane Grover's anecdote of how the Wildcats women's lacrosse team opened the eyes of her three young sons and changed their perspective of women's athletics.

    "They saw you pass with precision, they saw you with this great field sense, understanding the strategy, and they heard you hit the ground with bones clattering, and they heard the sticks hitting," Alderwoman Grover said to the Wildcats. "It was extraordinary, and I think you persuaded them -- in a way that I could never have done -- just watching you play that day."


    Eventually, the week-long celebration gave way to the inevitable reality of final exam week for most of Northwestern's 34 players as they buckled down to complete their academic responsibilities. But succinctly summarizing the remarkable ride that was the 2012 season, championship weekend and Chicagoland celebrations requires only a four-word phrase repeated often by the 'Cats during their interactions with fans and media members:

    It never gets old.

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