Playing the second best ranked team in the nation is no easy task, especially in front of a record breaking 1,705 fans versus. That is, unless your team is ranked first. This was the situation for Northwestern women’s lacrosse about two weeks ago. Ranked #1 in the nation as they approached their rival from the NCAA National Championships last year, the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Wildcats had the closest game of the season. However, the Wildcats found themselves on the losing end. A close game till the end, the Wildcats suffered an 18-16 loss, making it their first loss in nearly two years. Although a loss like this was obviously hard to accept, being five time defending national champions (including last year’s title) and now the #2 ranked team in the nation make the Wildcats a team whose spirit in not easily crushed. They would not let this loss define them as a team. Less than a week after their struggle against the Tar Heels, the Wildcats rallied to victory against their conference opponent Vanderbilt with a 27-9 win, a win that makes NU the regular season champions and places them as the number one seed in the upcoming American Lacrosse Conference Championships (ALCC), in which also they placed 1st last year.
The 2010 season for the Wildcats began rather normally for the team with 18-6, 18-11, and 23-1 victories over schools University of Massachusetts, Stanford, and Duquesne respectively. The team continued to build upon their undefeated record from last season by achieving 12 straight wins where three of those wins were against conference opponents. On playing for such a successful team, freshman player Amanda Macaluso says, “playing for a team that has won five national championships means that we play with a huge target on our backs. This means that every game we play we need to bring our best, because we know the other team is. The level of intensity and competitiveness that we play with everyday is amazing.”
Throughout the season thus far, NU’s star players Katrina Dowd and Danielle Spencer dominated the field and represented the Wildcats well as a team with power. Dowd continues to rack up points as she currently is ranked 7th on NU’s all time scoring list with 228 points while Spencer is ranked 8th with 216 points. Concerning what keeps Dowd set on success she says, “My teammates motivate me to become the best player I can be in order to further the success of the team. Each practice and every game is an opportunity. As a senior my opportunities are numbered, there is no greater motivation then to keep that in perspective.”
Then defeat struck.
Despite players like Dowd, Alexandra Frank, Shannon Smith, Brooke Matthews, Rachel Fox, and Amanda Macaluso all adding a total of 16 points to the scoreboard against North Carolina, the Tar Heels still won but by only a small and unfortunate margin. Has the loss affected the team’s morale? After the loss Dowd stated, “The team’s overall morale hasn’t shifted. We have a very positive coaching staff and we as players buy into the concept of being positive to ourselves and teammates. But with the loss, it has come time to look inside ourselves. Hard work and consistency is what this program values and as players we needed to decide if what we were contributing was our best effort.” The NU women’s lacrosse team does not let the word “loss” disrupt their attitude and mindset and is why Dowd goes on to say, “As a team we cannot not let the loss define our season but let how we respond here on out define us.” And certainly they did not let it define them, evidenced by their performance less than a week later.
As the #2 Wildcats took the field on April 24th for their game against #8 Vanderbilt, the regular season conference crown was at stake as well as the first seed position in the ALCC. Players Dowd and Spencer led the team with Spencer scoring a career best of 8 goals. This tied her for second most goals in a single game in NU lacrosse history. In the end, the Wildcats defeated Vanderbilt with an overwhelming 27-9 victory. Despite the players’ role in the team’s success, there is more to their victory. Macaluso says, “a lot of the credit I would say has to go to our amazing coaching staff. They put in endless hours watching and cutting film as well as coming up with new and innovative drills and ways to make us the best and most versatile team that we can be.”
With the victory over Vanderbilt, Northwestern stood with a strong record of 13-1 including a 4-0 record against American Lacrosse Conference opponents. Northwestern then closed their season on a high note this past weekend with victories over both Virginia and Florida, giving NU an overall record of 15-1.
The Wildcats now look forward to the American Lacrosse Conference Championships on May 6th in Columbus, Ohio where they look to defend their title from last year.
Article by staff writer: