April 29, 2004
EVANSTON, Ill. -
Northwestern's women's lacrosse team was among a handful of teams who received votes outside of the Top 20 in the IWLCA's preseason national poll; this week, the 'Cats are ranked sixth in that same poll, the loftiest ranking for the program since 1989, during the previous era of lacrosse at the school (1982-92).
NU vs. Ohio, 4 p.m. Friday
NU vs. Denver, 1 p.m. Sunday
The Wildcats were picked fifth in the ALC preseason poll; on Friday, they can clinch a share of the regular-season title by defeating an unranked Ohio team.
Northwestern (12-1, 4-0 ALC) already has achieved a record for wins in a season, and its school-record 11 wins in a row are the second-longest streak in the country behind only the No. 1 team in the land, Princeton (24 after an overtime win over Maryland Wednesday). The Wildcats' 12-1 mark is second-best in the country, behind the Tigers' 15-0 ledger.
To be sure, these have been heady times for the third-year program, with the peak coming last week when NU defeated a pair of top-10 opponents in Notre Dame and Johns Hopkins. With the Bobcats coming to town, as well as a Sunday matchup against an unranked Denver team, the question must be asked:
Is Northwestern primed for a letdown?
"There is no fear of a letdown on my part," said head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. "All year long, this team has kept its focus on the right things -- playing well and having fun out there on the field. I am confident that will be the case again this weekend.
"The girls probably know that a win Friday will give them a share of the title, but if they do it is not because we've discussed it," she continued, pointing out that it would not give the 'Cats the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. "That is not the focus of the coaching staff -- our focus is making sure they continue to improve and they come out hard. What are our players going to do to step it up and take things to the next level?"
While it may be easy to consider the possibility that NU might look right past these games -- remember, this is still a team with just one senior -- Ohio (7-6, 2-2 ALC) may have actually done the 'Cats a favor over the weekend by defeating No. 18 Penn State, just days after the Nittany Lions had knocked off No. 5 Georgetown.
"We had a really tough game with Penn State a few weeks ago, so we know that if Ohio beat them they are a quality team," said Amonte Hiller. "That was Ohio's first-ever win against a ranked team, so they are going to be coming in here with a dose of confidence and looking at this game as a prime opportunity to get another upset. We have to be ready for that.
"I expect Ohio to be a gritty team," she continued. "They have a quality goalkeeper, and that goes a long way toward boosting a team's performance. Offensively, they have some players who have been their leaders for a few years now, so they are dangerous."
With so much at stake Friday, it would be easy to dismiss Sunday's nonconference game against Denver (6-9). However, that has never been Amonte Hiller's modus operandi.
"I know a few of their players, and they are solid," she said. "They have a great coach in Cathy Nelson Reese, and I expect them to be gunning for us. Again, we are the highly ranked team here -- opponents will be bringing their best efforts at us."
Notes for the Weekend
*Northwestern will honor senior Angela McMahon prior to Sunday's game with Denver, even though the 'Cats still have a home game with Vanderbilt next week. McMahon -- who transferred to NU from Massachusetts, where she played one year of lacrosse -- will be the first player to graduate from Northwestern who has been with the women's lacrosse program since it was brought back to varsity status in 2002. (Ashley and Courtney Koester are also seniors, but have another year of eligibility that they will use next year)
NU in the ALC
Scoring Offense: 2nd (12.73)
Scoring Defense: 1st (7.70)
1. Ashley Gersuk, 7.92
2. Ashley Gersuk, .533
Points Per Game
5. Kristen Kjellman, 3.77
Goals Per Game
t-3. Kristen Kjellman, 3.08
Assists Per Game
t-6. Sarah Albrecht/Lindsey Munday, 1.08
Draw Controls Per Game
3. Courtney Koester, 2.38
6. Kristen Kjellman, 1.92
Caused Turnovers Per Game
t-5. Courtney Koester, 1.23
NU in the National Stats
Team Scoring Offense: 9th
Team Scoring Defense: 5th
Individual Goals-Against Average: Ashley Gersuk 7th
Individual Goals Per Game: Kristen Kjellman 14th
*With all the pub this week for Kristen Kjellman, little attention has been given to the recent play of sophomore Lindsey Munday. She had five assists in NU's win at Penn State on April 17, and Sunday vs. Hopkins she had three goals and three assists.
*Balance is the key for NU's offense -- six or more players have scored in six of the last seven games. The only time it didn't happen was against Notre Dame, but in that game five different Wildcat players scored the team's nine goals.
Goal-Scoring Streaks: Glassanos 13, Albrecht 6, Josephs 4, Kjellman 3. (the last time Glassanos was held without a goal was the 2003 season finale at Syracuse)
Hat Tricks in 2004: Kjellman 7 (3 in a row), Albrecht 3, Josephs 3, Munday 3, Finocchiaro 2, Glassanos 2, Bush.
*Goalkeeper Ashley Gersuk has recorded 10 or more saves seven times this season, including four of the last five games.
*In addition to both of Northwestern's games this weekend, the 'Cats will also host a neutral-site game Saturday when Ohio and Denver play each other.