We made it through football season. Basketball season will soon be but a distant memory. Now it’s time to get ready for the sport that could very well define your time here at Northwestern.
It’s time for women’s lacrosse.
The ‘Cats dominate the sport in a way unlike any other lax program in America, much less one playing in the Midwest, long considered to be a backwater for the east-coast dominated sport. Head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller took her team to the NCAA semifinals last season, where they lost to Maryland, the No. 1 team in the country. For most squads, this would be considered a banner year, but at Northwestern – which has seven national titles dating back to 2005 – nothing less than a championship will do.
The ‘Cats come into 2015 ranked fifth in the country, primed to bring their eighth NCAA championship back to the shores of Lake Michigan. But this season will be full of change for Northwestern, as they play their first season in the Big Ten, which is fielding women’s lacrosse for the first time. Not to mention, archrival Maryland is a member of the conference now, too.
You’ll want to start following women’s lacrosse early, because as soon as everyone realizes how good these ladies are, the bandwagon can get pretty full. Here a few games you absolutely can’t miss if you want to call yourself a women’s lacrosse fan in 2015.
Saturday March 7 vs. Colorado
It’s the ‘Cats' home opener, but there’s another big reason this game should be marked on your calendar.
Colorado has only had a women’s lacrosse team for two years, but these teams already have history. That’s because Buffs assistant coach Hannah Nielsen is perhaps the greatest Northwestern lacrosse player of all time.
Nielsen is the ‘Cats' all-time leader in points and assists, winning an NCAA championship every year she played at the school. Last month, she was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame, a well-deserved honor for the record-breaking midfielder.
When the Buffs come to Evanston, Nielsen will be looking to beat the school she helped build into a dynasty, though it won’t be easy. While Colorado had a decent inaugural season, advancing to the conference semifinals, they’re unranked to begin the season and shouldn’t present a huge challenge for Northwestern.
Sunday March 22 vs. No. 3 Syracuse
These top-five teams will meet in a game between two of the best journalism schools in America, and if any of those nerds from New York want to throw down during halftime, I’ll have my AP Stylebook handy.
Oh right, the game.
Both of these teams are absolute rock stars of the sport. Syracuse went all the way to the national title game last season, eventually falling to Maryland, and the Orange also knocked off the ‘Cats at home last season.
As the best team in the ACC, Syracuse will provide a stern non-conference test for Northwestern. These are two teams that know each other well, and this game could be one of the ‘Cats’ most intense clashes of the year.
Thursday March 26 vs. No. 1 Maryland
This is the big one.
If you only go to one women’s lacrosse game all year, make it this battle between lax titans. Seriously, just don’t leave for spring break. The Terrapins ended Northwestern’s season last year in the NCAA semifinals, and the ‘Cats will have revenge on their minds when the defending national champions roll into Lakeside Field on March 26.
Maryland is the only team in the country that might rival Northwestern’s success in women’s lacrosse over the years. An unparalleled east-coast dynasty, the Terps were the original kings of the sport, winning eight national championships in the 90’s, but only two during this century.
So they’re basically the Backstreet Boys of women’s lacrosse.
This is also Northwestern’s first ever Big Ten conference game, so this one is (somehow) even more important for both teams. Look for the atmosphere to be electric in this battle of top-five teams.
Saturday April 25 vs. No. 12 Ohio State
It’s always a big deal when Ohio State comes to town, but the Buckeyes have actually been a thorn in the side of Northwestern women’s lacrosse for a while now.
The Buckeyes were members of the American Lacrosse Conference (where Northwestern played before the Big Ten introduced women’s lax this season) and faced the ‘Cats in conference play every year. Ohio State knocked off the ‘Cats in Columbus last season, even though Northwestern came in at No. 4 in the country and the Buckeyes were unranked.
This year though, Ohio State is ranked 12th and should give Northwestern all it can handle in their regular season finale. It will also be Senior Day for the ‘Cats and they’ll be looking to send out their upperclassmen with a victory.