Wildcat of the Week: Paul Stevens

It was another light sports week for Northwestern with Dance Marathon (special shout out to all the dancers for another amazing effort!) and the winter quarter winding down. Conference tournaments for women’s basketball and wrestling took place this past weekend and the men’s basketball team is winding down its season.

Spring sports are just starting up and getting their seasons going.

Still, it is sometimes good even at the beginning to take a step back and look at the big picture. And that is what the baseball team can do after a 14-6 win over Chicago State in Port Charlotte, Fla. Longtime coach Paul Stevens notched the 600th win of his career.

Stevens has been Northwestern’s baseball coach for the last 25 years and has seen a lot of great players come through Northwestern. His teams have not always been the most successful, but his player seem to really like him.

This past weekend, Northwestern went 2-2 at the Snowbird Classic in Florida, topping Xavier in addition to Chicago State. In that win over the Cougars, the Wildcats batted around in the fifth inning and scored six runs to increase their lead to nine runs. That was a runaway win on getaway day.

Northwestern got help from two errors in the top of the ninth to plate home Jack Quigley for the winning run in the 3-2 victory over Xavier. The Wildcats are 3-7 early on this season.

The baseball team is usually somewhere in the middle of the pack of the Big Ten, sometimes even struggling to get into the Big Ten Tournament. Hopefully Stevens can build off this individual accomplishment and lead NU to a surprising season in conference.

Honorable Mentions

Dayana Sarkisova & Devynn Patterson, Fencing: Sarkisova and Patterson won a pair of duels to help Northwestern finish second at the Midwest Conference championship this past weekend. It was Northwestern’s highest finish since 2007. Sarkisova and Patterson helped Northwestern win the gold medal in the women’s foil. Patterson clinched the medal with a 5-0 win in her bout against Ohio State’s Allison Henvick.

Jason Welch, Wrestling: Welch completed a strong Big Ten season by finishing second at the Big Ten championships at 157 pounds. Welch suffered his first loss of the year in the final (a loss to Iowa’s Derek St. John) by one point on a late take down in the third period. It was a disappointing way for him to end his Big Ten season, but he will have a chance for redemption in the NCAAs. Welch was one of six wrestlers to medal at the Big Ten championships.

Shannon Smith, Lacrosse: Smith scored the second goal of overtime Wednesday in an 11-9 come-from-behind victory at Syracuse. The Wildcats had to erase a four-goal deficit at one point in the second half and used a 7-0 run to do so. There would be no early-season loss for the defending national champions in this big win. Fitzgerald had the game-winning goal in the overtime. Smith, though, had five goals in this mid-week road trip. She then put on a show for the first home game of the year with a goal in NU’s 15-2 win over Oregon at Lakeside Field.


John Shurna, Men’s Basketball: I am sure he will be the Wildcat of the Week next week… I am sure he will be Wildcat of the Quarter (do we even need to go through the voting process?). Still, it is good to take a moment and recognize some history. Shurna was named to the All-Big Ten First Team, becoming the first Northwestern player to do so since Jitim Young in 2004 and the first Northwestern player to be a three-time All-Big Ten player since Evan Eschmeyer. He finished the season as the Big Ten’s leading scorer too. All things that just don’t happen at Northwestern. They did this year… and the journey is not over yet.

  • Jim

    WLAX Dodges Bullet/Builds Resume

    Although you mentioned a WLAX player in honorable mention, the TEAM’S come-from-behind road OT win at Syracuse shouldn’t be taken with a grain of salt. After the loss to NU, then 11th ranked Syracuse knocked off 3rd ranked Florida on the road this past Saturday. As a result, Syracuse gained the # 5 spot in this week’s national poll, even with its loss to NU in the same week. As perennial contenders, this kind of RPI and SOS gain have consistently put NU WLAX in the driver’s seat come NCAA tournament time. As a result, NU habitually starts its first two games in the NCAA tournament at Lakeside Field by design. There’s something here for LTP posters who love to pick apart Fitz and BC because they detect the flaws in their coaching and their programs.
    You can bet that the adjustments that Kally Amonte Hiller made to come from behind and snatch victory from defeat in overtime on the road against a vastly underrated Syracuse were finesse personified. They always are. Let’s not take this for granted !

    • Massberry

      I like Jim’s observations, too, and I’m going to repeat his point, though not as succinctly as he does, because it’s a good one. Thanks for LTP and PRR for looking at NU’s other sports.

      Women’s lacrosse has won NU’s only national championship in any sport, and it’s done this six times. It is likely, at this moment–can this be disputed at all?–the best collegiate program in any sport. We are living in its golden age. As Jim notes, lacrosse schedules top teams and beats them on the road during the early season (as in this one). Against these teams, it wins in every possible way: domination from the start, coming from behind. It plays with an innovative and aggressive style; the team wears shorts while its opponents wear skirts, a distinction symbolic in many ways.

      The way this team is put together seems vastly, monumentally different from any other at NU and this difference deserves scrutiny. It bears, as Jim says, on the usual discussion of football and men’s basketball.

      Why is this team so forceful? Some glibly point to recruiting, which they see as easily done in women’s sports at NU. But Kelly Amonte Hiller started her program from scratch and won her first national trophy with a team that included a few players she pulled from the intramural fields who had never played the game before. No team from the midwest had ever done well in the sport. In her third year, NU reached the national quarterfinals; in her fourth, they were national champions.

      This suggests some special imagination, judgment, confidence, and possibly magic that I hope is shared across the NU athletic department. This includes training, conditioning, scheduling, recruiting, strategy, psychology. The men’s basketball team is preparing for its conference tournament. Imagine: if it were to think as the lacrosse team thinks, it would do well, wouldn’t it? And it would know this for itself. It would perform at its peak, consistently. As we all observe, it doesn’t quite do this now. Its peak can be sublimely high, but it waxes and wanes.

      The baseball coach has been at NU for 25 years, which may be admirable, but his 600 wins is matched by 700+ losses and no conference championships. The football team also seems challenged to maintain its peak.

      When we think constructively of how NU sports can be their best, should we see what is successful and consider how that success can be spread around? The lacrosse team and its coach are commanding. Their dominance suggests something beyond the simple instrumental logic that drives the bile flowing on this blog after a football or basketball loss. Yes, it may be impossible to win six championships in seven years in men’s hoops or football. But what about merely performing at peak in a sustained way under any competitive conditions? NU lacrosse gives us a real and multifarious model to learn from, no matter the sport.

      • Jim

        Other manifestations of the WLAX Dynasty

        Right on, Massberry !!!

        …and Trixie’s star teammate, Danielle Spencer was an assistant coach for nationally ranked Stanford when they played NU WLAX a couple of weeks back.

        The recent Keith Jackson narrated BTN B1G Icons piece on Kelly Amonte Hiller will become a well deserved recruiting asset.

        The dance studio in Patten is being converted to a new WLAX locker room,.. a manifestation that facilities enter the mix at NU when champions are the target team.

        The Marching Band, this past Saturday, added to the celebration at Lakeside Field as a championship banner ( highlighting the six NCAA championships ) was attached to the Scoreboard for the season…

        LTP bloggers take note…These are champions.
        The players, the coaches, the program and the performance are what peak performance requires.

  • cece

    Jim could not be more correct. A special bonus bit about Syracuse, former NU star Katrina Dowd, aka Trixie, is now an assistant coach at Syracuse and she was one of our all time most amazing goal scorers. bet the girls at Syracuse are learning lots. still recall their keeper of 2006 who was major so Syracuse is ripe to be on the upswing.

  • Watching and (mostly) Waiting

    Unfortunately, my son played baseball for Stevens at NU. I can only vouch for 4 years, but the coach was uniformly despised (and very justifiably, from my observations) by his players. And this was not the usual young-rebels-dislike-the-coach kind of stuff, this was young men figuring out their “mentor” was in fact a very bad actor. Stevens’ only asset appears to be his longevity. Sorry to see this usually informative blog recognizing him.

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      I am sorry to hear that… I hope that it was an unusual circumstance, but if it was all four years then that may not be the case. His longevity has always been a bit weird to me, to be honest. The program is not particularly good… so how has he kept his position for 20-plus years?

      Either way, 600 wins is not something to laugh at, I guess. As @SippinOnPurple pointed out on Twitter to me… he also has 700 losses.

      Very light week sports-wise. I think picking Wildcat of the Week will be easier next week.

    • SJ Wildcat

      +1 — I never understood why they have kept him for so long.