EVANSTON, Ill. -- As the weather gets warmer and the calendar flips to April, Northwestern enters the heart of its 2013 schedule with a run of seven consecutive games against teams currently ranked in the top 11 nationally. The stretch continues Friday night when NU hosts No. 8 Penn State in a key American Lacrosse Conference test before heading on the road for the first time in a month to take on No. 11 Virginia on Sunday.
Tickets to all Northwestern Lacrosse home games may be purchased at the entrance to Lakeside Field for $7 (adults), $4 (senior citizens and youths) or $3 for large groups. Admission is free for Northwestern students with presentation of a valid WildCard. Parking is free for all fans.
CSN Chicago Brings Fans Behind the Scenes of NU Lax Kelly Amonte Hiller, decorated Northwestern head women's lacrosse coach and winner of nine NCAA championships as a player and coach, is the subject of an in-depth profile in the latest episode of Comcast SportsNet Chicago's monthly series, "Inside Look." Amonte Hiller is the first-ever female subject of "Inside Look," which in the past has profiled such prominent Chicago sports figures as Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, Bears coaching legend Mike Ditka and current Cubs owner Tom Ricketts. To watch the episode in its entirety, visit CSNChicago.com's "Inside Look" page (episode segmented into Parts I, II and III).
Scouting the Nittany Lions/Series Info 2013 Season: 7-3 (2-0 ALC), No. 8 IWLCA 2012 Postseason: NCAA Second Round Head Coach: Missy Doherty (Maryland '97); 29-18 at Penn State (third year); 108-64 overall Key Players: Maggie McCormick (So., A): 26 goals, 19 assists; Mackenzie Cyr (Jr., A): 22 goals, 13 assists; Tatum Coffey (So., A): 17 goals, 23 draw controls, 14 ground balls In the Cage: Emi Smith (Fr., GK): 11.3 GAA, .393 save pct. Series History: NU leads, 14-4 Last Meeting: Northwestern 14, Penn State 7 (April 6, 2012, University Park, Pa.)
Northwestern will welcome to Lakeside Field a Penn State squad riding high after arguably its biggest win under third-year head coach Missy Doherty, who was a college teammate of Kelly Amonte Hiller at Maryland. On Saturday in State College, the Lions outscored second-ranked and previously unbeaten Florida 10-2 in the second half en route to a 16-11 decision, ending the Gators' 24-game regular-season winning streak in a pivotal American Lacrosse Conference outcome. PSU won nine of 11 second-half draw controls and sophomore standout Tatum Coffey led the Lions' attack with four goals and one assist.
The Wildcats have won 14 straight meetings with the Nittany Lions after losing to PSU in each of their first two seasons back as a varsity program (2002 and 2003). The 'Cats have scored at least 13 goals in all 14 of those wins and have not allowed the Lions to reach double-digit goal totals since winning 13-12 on April 13, 2008, in University Park.
The coaching staffs of Northwestern and Penn State have connections that run deeper than the fact that Amonte Hiller and Doherty were teammates in College Park for three seasons. Before arriving in State College, Doherty spent seven seasons as head coach at Towson University where she coached current NU assistant Hillary Fratzke to three IWLCA All-America honors as well as Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Player of the Year awards in both 2008 and 2010.
Doherty also tapped a former Wildcat to round out her coaching staff last summer, hiring 2011 Northwestern alum Brooke Matthews as an assistant coach. Matthews scored 88 goals and started 61 games during an NU career in which she contributed to three NCAA championship seasons.
Scouting the Cavaliers/Series Info 2013 Season: 7-6 (0-4 ALC), No. 11 IWLCA 2012 Postseason: NCAA First Round Head Coach: Julie Myers (Virginia, '90); 251-97 (17th year) Key Players:Casey Bocklet (So., A): 31 goals, 15 assists, Ashlee Warner (Jr., A): 26 goals, 15 assists, 14 ground balls; Caroline McTiernan (Sr., A): 17 points, 47 draw controls In the Cage: Kim Kolarik (Sr., GK): 10.3 GAA, .403 save pct. Series History: NU leads, 7-5 Last Meeting: Northwestern 13, Virginia 6
Northwestern and Virginia have a long history of competitive and entertaining matchups, dating to their first meeting during the Kelly Amonte Hiller when the Wildcats dropped a 15-11 decision in the quarterfinals of the 2004 NCAA Tournament against the eventual national champion Cavaliers. Since that game, the Wildcats have won six in a row in the series, with all but one of those games being decided by four goals or fewer.
A year ago, Northwestern trailed the ninth-ranked Cavs by a 4-2 margin at halftime but outscored the visitors 11-2 over the final 30 minutes to win 13-6 in their final regular season contest. Shannon Smith scored four goals while Taylor Thornton added a pair in the win.
Virginia's formidable attack this year has been led by a familiar face to Wildcats, sophomore transfer Casey Bocklet. Bocklet was a strong contributor on NU's 2012 NCAA championship-winning squad and finished second on the team with 22 assists in 2012 before departing at season's end; she currently paces the Cavaliers in both goals (29) and points (14) this season. Virginia enters Sunday's game looking to bolster its chances for an NCAA Tournament bid; the Cavs are 7-6 and 0-4 in the ACC, with one-goal losses to top-5 opponents Syracuse (10-9) and North Carolina (8-7).
Defending Their Turf
Lakeside Field has been a difficult place for opponents to leave with a 'W' during Kelly Amonte Hiller's tenure, with NU's victory over Syracuse Saturday improving the Wildcats home record since the start of the 2005 season to a remarkable 86-2. Northwestern also is 36-5 all-time at home against opponents ranked in the top 10, a figure it can add to when it welcomes No. 8 Penn State to Evanston Friday night. Last season, NU won regular-season home games against top-10 foes North Carolina (No. 3), Notre Dame (No. 6) and Virginia (No. 9).
Follow My Lead
Returning Honda Sports Award winner Taylor Thornton refused to let the Wildcats fall victim to Ohio State's upset bid on March 27, finding her scoring touch to the tune of a career-best four goals. The effort included two free position scores and a stretch in the second half in which Thornton notched three straight goals for the Wildcats, the last of which brought the score level at 7-7 for the first time since it had been 2-2. Thornton now has 12 goals on the year and 64 for her stellar career.
In addition to her usual production in the midfield (23 ground balls, 22 draw controls), Thornton also has quietly been one of NU's most consistent performers on free position opportunities. Thornton has a team-best seven 8-meter goals this year, converting on 64 percent of her attempts on the arc. Last season, Thornton scored 12 of her 33 goals off the 8-meter.
Career Effort Nets ALC Weekly Honor For Cassera
Northwestern senior midfielder Ali Cassera collected her first career Offensive Player of the Week honor from the American Lacrosse Conference, the league announced Monday. Cassera recorded her first-ever five-goal game in leading the Wildcats to a come-from-behind 13-12 win over No. 5 Syracuse in a much-anticipated rematch of the 2012 NCAA championship game. Earlier in the week against ALC foe Ohio State, Cassera had one assist and also clinched the 9-8 win for NU with her caused turnover near midfield as the Buckeyes looked to tie the game with just over one minute remaining in regulation. The veteran of 76 games played with the `Cats now has 15 goals on the year -- four more than she scored in all of 2012 -- and 62 in her career.
Pick Your Poison
Northwestern's offense has been firing on all cylinders since the opening draw of the 2013 season, ranking third nationally with 15.4 goals per game. NU has been spreading the wealth on attack and now has four players with at least 15 points and six in double figures, led by Erin Fitzgerald's 32 goals and 36 points. Upperclassmen Alyssa Leonard (27 points), Amanda Macaluso (25) and Ali Cassera (17) all needed only eight games to meet or exceed their points total of a year ago, while junior Kelly Rich (10) is just two points shy of that mark.
After its weekend visit to Virginia is complete, Northwestern returns home for another pair of tough tests, hosting ACC power Duke at 7 p.m. CT Friday (April 12) before turning around to face 10th-ranked Stanford at 1 p.m. CT Sunday (April 14). Both games will stream live on the Big Ten Digital Network via Wildcats All-Access.