The Northwestern lacrosse team (1-0) kicked off its season with a big win, taking down No. 4 Duke (1-1) 11-8 Sunday in Durham.
The fifth-ranked Wildcats were led by reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Selena Lasota, who scored five times in her season debut, a season after she lit up the Big Ten with 69 scores. Junior Sheila Nesselbush picked up a hat trick of her own to go along with four ground balls and four draw controls.
Lasota, Nesselbush and Craig were all named Big Ten Players to Watch by the conference earlier this week, and they proved to be worthy of that recognition by combining for 10 of Northwestern’s 11 goals, as well as 17 of the team’s 22 shots on goal.
A big question mark for the team this year was who would replace the graduated Bridget Bianco in the cage for the ‘Cats. Head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller didn’t give any hints as to who would start in the season opener, but she decided on freshman Mallory Weisse over junior Natalee Easthom. Weisse made eight saves in her collegiate debut, but it remains to be seen if she will remain the starter going forward.
Her opposing goalkeeper did all she could to keep the Blue Devils in the match – senior Kelsey Duryea made 16 saves on 27 shots to give her squad a chance. Duke led 5-2 at one point in the first half, but after Lasota scored her third of the game to level the score at five, Duke never led again. Freshman Olivia Jenner and junior Hayley Shaffer both had two goals to pace the Blue Devils.
Draw controls were the other area of focus this offseason for the Wildcats, but things looked a little better Sunday, as the ‘Cats won 12-of-21 draws. They also forced 14 Duke turnovers while committing only eight of their own.
The Wildcat’s strong non-conference schedule continues Saturday when they take on the No. 10 Virginia Cavaliers. They’ll then face Syracuse and Louisville before their home opener against Marquette on March 8.