As another school year closes, NBN Sports takes a look back at which departing seniors will be missed the most next year. The Class of 2018 has been a key component in the ongoing transformation of Northwestern athletics, guiding their respective teams to a slew of Big Ten Championships and national accolades. While there are too many seniors to recognize – including Bryant McIntosh, Sheila Nesselbush, and Maddie Lipp – the list represents players that were the most important to their respective programs.
Baseball: Jack Claeys
While the Northwestern baseball team has a number of young players with high ceilings going into next season, the ‘Cats will bid farewell to team leader and academic all-Big Ten catcher Jack Claeys. Claeys eased his way into the Northwestern program, only starting two games his freshman year, but ultimately became as a consistent starter for most of his sophomore and all of his junior and senior seasons. His batting average increased each season and almost doubled overall from freshman to senior year. This year, Claeys was a bright spot in what was a season full of poor hitting performances from the Wildcats. He finished among the top three starters in batting average and hits and led the starters in doubles, home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage.
With Claeys graduating this season, the Northwestern batting order needs to present more offensive threats if they want to be competitive next season. Claeys finished with 39 of the team’s 222 total RBIs. If you crunch the numbers, that’s almost 20 percent. If other Wildcats can’t fill Claey’s cleats at the plate, it’s going to be a long 2019 season for the Wildcats, and they’ll be facing a serious threat of ending up at the bottom of the Big Ten.
Softball: Sabrina Rabin
Northwestern softball’s graduating class includes strong players like shortstop Marissa Panko and catcher Sammy Nettling – and, last but not least, the ever-reliable offensive star Sabrina Rabin. The center-fielder paced the Northwestern offense throughout her career, batting .367 overall and leading the team in hits during each of her four years. As the leadoff hitter for the team, Rabin set the table for power-hitting teammates like Panko, Andrea Filler and rising phenom Rachel Lewis. Recently picked as an NFCA All-Region player for the fourth straight year, Rabin will be missed for her incredible consistency at the plate that led a Northwestern team to Regionals in three seasons.
Football: Justin Jackson
Northwestern RB Justin Jackson (@J_ManPrime21) Career Highlights— JustBombsProductions (@JBP_Official) April 15, 2018
After rushing for over 1,000 yards in all four seasons, Jackson finished his illustrious career as the school's all time leading rusher with 5,440 yards & 41 touchdowns.
Full Video 🎥: https://t.co/rObi5xdexepic.twitter.com/xbLy0LB2C5
Undoubtedly, the loss of Justin Jackson for Northwestern football will be felt by most students on campus. Even with Jeremy Larkin’s emergence last year, the Ball Carrier remained the bell cow back he was his previous three seasons. Jackson guided his team to another 10-win season and Bowl victory while firmly cementing his place as the best running back in Northwestern history. It would be a momentous feat for Larkin or anybody else in Northwestern’s stable of running backs to match his 1,587 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns with the same consistency, durability and leadership that Jackson maintained over his career. From his 224 yards and three touchdowns against Pitt in the Pinstripe Bowl to his incredible OT catch against Iowa last year, Jackson has provided Wildcat fans scores of highlights with his dazzling elusivity and game-altering touchdowns. Justin Jackson’s heroics will not be forgotten any time soon in Evanston.
Football: Tyler Lancaster
Other than Jackson, it is hard to find a player that Northwestern will miss more than football’s defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster. He had an incredibly productive career that peaked in his senior year, as he recorded 40 tackles (nine for a loss) and was the anchor of a run defense that ranked ninth nationally last season. However, what makes Lancaster so special is his leadership role on the team. His teammates voted to give him the No. 1 jersey, an honor that is given to the player who best embodies the values and character of the football program. His level of play and his character will surely be missed next season. The Packers are getting a good one.
Women’s Soccer: Lauren Clem
On the pitch, one senior who will be particularly missed is Lauren Clem, the women’s soccer team’s legendary goalkeeper. A stalwart of the team for the last four years, Clem set a program record of 89 consecutive starts as she provided the backbone for one of the Big Ten’s stingiest defenses. There’s a case to be made that the Michigan native is not only the best keeper Northwestern has ever seen, but the greatest keeper to ever grace the Big Ten. Her whopping 49 shutouts – including a ridiculous streak of 539 minutes without conceding – are unmatched in program and Big Ten history, and rank third highest in NCAA history.
One of the hallmarks of Coach Moynihan’s team in recent seasons has been its remarkably solid defense, and Clem has been instrumental to establishing that identity. Clem’s passion, presence, and safe hands will be missed between the sticks.
Women’s Golf: Hannah Kim
Four years ago, Northwestern women’s golf was solid. Now, it is a top 10 program in the country. No one within the program would disagree that there is one person to thank for this: Hannah Kim. Kim holds the lowest scoring average of any player in program history and has led her team to three straight top 10 finishes at the NCAA Tournament. The Chula Vista, California, native was Big Ten Player of the Year twice during her four years, and First Team All-Big Team all four years. Although Northwestern fell to Stanford in the NCAA Quarterfinals this week, the team undoubtedly would not have been there without her (she defeated Stanford’s Mika Liu in the match, too).
Kim has led by example, keeping her cool when things go her way and when they don’t. Anyone who has played golf knows that it is as much mental as it is physical. Coach Emily Fletcher believes Kim’s best trait is her ability to “take care of her own business, her preparation and performance,” which not only benefits her but “draws people in and raises the energy level within the team.” While the Wildcats return a talented squad next year, there will never be another Hannah Kim.