Lacrosse MVP: Jill Girardi
By Sarah Meadow
Ahead of the 2022 season, Jill Girardi was primarily a midfielder. She tallied a total of 32 goals in her four seasons before her fifth-year campaign.
In the wake of leading scorer Izzy Scane’s injury, it was clear that players would need to step up. However, it’s safe to say that many fans may not have foreseen the breakout season Girardi was going to have. Not only did she surpass her four-season cumulative goals total with 49 on the season, she also became a mainstay on the draw circle beside her classmate Brennan Dwyer.
While her move to attack from midfield and defense was an untraditional one, it was absolutely crucial to Northwestern’s Final Four run. She worked heavily alongside former assistant coach Shelby Fredricks, Northwestern’s all-time leader in draw controls, in the circle and on the attack.
All things considered, winning possession is crucial to ultimately winning games – and Girardi was absolutely unstoppable in the circle. Though there were plenty of great options to take the opening possession, Girardi alongside Dwyer, as well as freshmen Samantha White and Samantha Smith, took the majority of the time. After totaling 69 draw controls her senior season, she stepped it up this year and totaled 183. The six she tallied in the NCAA semifinal game against North Carolina, her final game of a storied career in the purple and white, was enough to push her over NU’s single-season draw control record, which Dwyer had set in 2019.
Not only did she post a career-high five goals twice, against Penn State and Syracuse, she also had a career-high 19 draw controls against Rutgers.
While Girardi is my tab for MVP, I would be remiss to not mention the contributions of the three other fifth-year seniors: Lauren Gilbert, Ally Palermo and Dwyer. Together, they went to three final fours, won two Big Ten tournaments and notched one regular-season conference championship. Northwestern’s combined record since they’ve been on the roster is a whopping 66-17, never losing to an unranked opponent.
Girardi finished the season as both an IWLCA and USA Lacrosse Magazine First Team All-American as well as being tabbed first-team All Big Ten unanimously. She was also drafted tenth overall to the Athletes Unlimited lacrosse league, the United States’ only professional female lacrosse league. She will take the field alongside Palermo, Gilbert and alumni Lindsey McKone on July 21 on ESPN.
Moreover, Girardi finished her career with a total of 273 draw controls, 83 goals, and 53 ground balls, making her a true force on all sides of the field. Most importantly, she served as a true leader on the team as a graduate student, helping bring Northwestern Lacrosse back to making championship weekends year after year.