By: Jack Lido
The Cats are back and they’re better than ever.
After an 11-10 season and a second round exit in the NCAA Tournament last year, the Wildcats welcomed the Canisius Golden Griffins to chilly Martin Stadium with an 18-7 victory in their first game of the season.
Senior Danita Stroup led the way with three goals, but scoring was distributed across the team, with 12 players scoring at least once. The Cats offense did not make it easy for All-MAAC goalkeeper Rebecca VanLaeken, delivering 49 total shots. One of coach Kelly Amonte Hiller’s trademarks is a slow, patient offense that passes the ball around the field before eventually finding an open look.
It was a big game for the younger players on the team, as 4 first year players were put into the starting lineup. First-years Brennan Dwyer, Jill Girardi, and Taylor Pinzone, who were all featured on Inside Lacrosse’s Power 100 Incoming Freshman Rankings, combined for four assists and two goals. Danita Stroup was cheerful when talking about the young talent on her team.
“They’re unreal to play with,” Stroup said. “I’m so happy for them that they got to get out there.”
With All-Big Ten defender Claire Quinn moved to attacker, there were questions surrounding the new-look Wildcat defense. However, the Cats proved their defense is still a force to be reckoned with, allowing only two free position shots and causing 15 turnovers.
Junior Selena Lasota has been a consistent staple in Northwestern offense, but the ‘Cats missed her last year after she went down with an injury four games into the season. The British Columbia native was back on the field today and scored two goals and had three draw controls. After 357 days, she was just happy to finally be playing again.
“It was awesome to be there running around with my teammates. I just honestly had a lot of fun today.” Lasota said.
The Wildcats were ranked no. 9 in the Inside Lacrosse preseason poll, and have high aspirations to hold the national title in their hands for the 8th time in school history. It won’t be easy though, after a game tomorrow against Detroit Mercy, the Cats have one of the hardest schedules in the country, including games against the no. 3 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels, no. 8 USC Trojans, and the defending National Champions, no. 1 Maryland Terrapins.
Catch the game tomorrow at 1 p.m. central time at Martin Stadium. WNUR Sports will have the call on our mixlr page.