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    'Cats Strive for Constant Improvement in Preseason Training

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Kelly Amonte Hiller (left) works with Kelly Rich and Nancy Dunbar to fine-tune the Northwestern attack.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Kelly Amonte Hiller (left) works with Kelly Rich and Nancy Dunbar to fine-tune the Northwestern attack.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Jan. 17, 2014

    Practice Photo Gallery -- Friday, Jan. 17

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    EVANSTON, Ill. -- With the 2014 season-opener still three weeks away, the seven-time NCAA champion Northwestern Lacrosse program is making the most of its preseason training in the month of January. The 35-player roster, which features nine seniors and seven returning starters from a year ago, has focused on building cohesion among new contributors while pushing themselves in their usual preseason regimen of lacrosse, running and boxing workouts.

    Fans are invited to get their first glimpse of the 2014 Wildcats with a Facebook photo gallery with images from their Friday morning (Jan. 17) practice at Trienens Hall in Evanston.

    Five-time IWLCA National Coach of the Year Kelly Amonte Hiller (215-33 career record) is looking to return the Wildcats to the rank of national champions for what would be an eighth time in 10 years in 2014. For fans looking to get to know this year's edition of the Wildcats, check out a position group preview below:

    Attack:


    Kelly Amonte Hiller will be working to develop some new sources of scoring on attack in 2014 after graduating four of NU's top five point- and goal-scorers a season ago, including the prolific Erin Fitzgerald (59 goals in 2013). Rising senior Alyssa Leonard had a breakthrough year on offense as a junior -- leading the 'Cats in assists and ranking second with 37 goals in addition to her record-setting season in the draw circle -- and will be counted on to direct the action around the cage in her senior campaign.

    • There will undoubtedly be some firepower returning to the field in the form of two players who suffered season-ending injuries early in 2013: veteran Kara Mupo and sophomore Christina Esposito. Mupo played in just the first three games last season after scoring 33 goals in 2012, while Esposito missed the last 14 contests with a torn ACL after having recorded seven goals and eight assists in the first eight games of her collegiate career.

    • The senior attack tandem of Kelly Rich and Kat DeRonda, who have plenty of big-game experience at Northwestern and combined for 71 points last season, will also feature prominently in NU's goal-scoring plans and in bringing along the Wildcats young talent.

    Defense:


    • Northwestern did not miss a beat after turning over the goalkeeper duties to then-sophomore Bridget Bianco in 2013, with Bianco ranking fifth nationally in goals against average (7.63) en route to third-team IWLCA All-America accolades. With a year of starting experience under her belt, Bianco only stands to benefit from the addition to the coaching staff of Tim McCormack, a standout goalkeeper on the men's side during his playing days at Massachusetts.

    • Bianco has an excellent cast of defenders and defensive midfielders returning in front of her, led by senior faceguard specialist Kerri Harrington and two-year captain Christy Turner, who has started 45 consecutive contests for the Wildcats. Another senior, Kate Macdonald, thrived after earning a starting role on defense last season and has the ability to spark the 'Cats in transition, as does sophomore Spring Sanders, who continuously showed off her speed during the fall season. Together, they'll be trying to replace the tenacious defensive efforts of the departed Taylor Thornton and Gabriella Flibotte, who combined for 78 caused turnovers last season.

    • Northwestern also welcomes a veteran newcomer to the fold this year in Kate Ivory, who is attending NU as a graduate student this year after competing as an undergrad for Cornell University. A Philadelphia native, Ivory was named the Ivy League Defender of the Year in 2013 and (along with Harrington) was named a preseason second-team All-American for 2014 by ILWomen.com.

    Midfield:


    • One of the first thing fans often learn when watching a Kelly Amonte Hiller-coached team is that just about any player could find themselves in any position, and the NU midfield traditionally features a fluid corps of contributors. But among the leading candidates to control the midfield in 2014 for the 'Cats is the athletic quintet of juniors Jess Carroll and Blake McHugh and sophomores Kaleigh Craig, Lauren Murray and Nancy Dunbar. Two other juniors, Haydyn Anigian and Amanda McLaughlin, have begun to find a home in the midfield and help provide depth to a Wildcats team that is known for pushing the pace at both ends of the field.

    2014 Freshmen


    • Northwestern welcomed a modestly sized freshman class of six newcomers to the fold last fall, but it's a group with big aspirations for the coming season. Kelly Amonte Hiller went back to the same fertile recruiting grounds of the Southeast that produced two-year team captain Christy Turner when she signed on Jasmine Docal (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) and Lydia Cassada (Milton, Ga.), both of whom gained national accolades during their prolific high school careers. Amonte Hiller also added speedster Sheila Nesselbush in the midfield, as well as a pair of Long Island natives in Catie Ingrilli and Julia DiMaria and added depth in the cage with Natalee Easthom (Annapolis, Md.).

    One More Thing...


    Several of Northwestern's veteran leaders took time out of their schedule on a recent weeknight to film the official 2014 Northwestern Lacrosse commercial. Check out an Instagram preview of the spot below and be on the lookout for the finished product in weeks to come:

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