Basketball got you down? Upset with the perpetual disappointment and the constant roller coaster of emotions?
The winter of discontent is almost over. The dominance is returning to the field.
Yes, Northwestern fans often are waiting for the spring to come. Not only does that mean the snow melts and the temperatures get (slightly) warmer, it means we can compete for a national championship and not be looking at things through purple-lensed glasses. Yes, Expect Victory is not only a motivational ploy for Kelly Amonte Hiller, it is the bottom line. Her mantra, no her expectation, is Win Championships.
And so the journey for Northwestern’s eighth national championship in nine years began with a pair of exhibition games in sunny Orlando, Florida. The Wildcats split a pair of games against the Great Britain national team and the U.S. national team, falling to Team USA on Sunday.
This really is our favorite time of the year when we get to be irrational fans and overreact with dread to close wins (championships are fun, right?).
The two games this weekend were against national teams, so Northwestern was certainly pushed a bit more going up against what amounts to college all star teams rather than just run-of-the-mill competition.
Northwestern defeated Team England 11-10 in overtime on Saturday behind Erin Fitzgerald’s game-winner in the second overtime period. Taylor Thornton sent the game to overtime with 1:16 left in regulation. Yes, usual Northwestern theatrics from Memorial Day weekend typically against the national team from across the pond. Northwestern went up against a team that is just as physical as it is and passed the test. Considering it was the Wildcats’ first game of the season, the result it pretty impressive. Fitzgerald and Thornton each had two goals in the game.
Sunday against Team USA, Northwestern lost 16-9. That is not as bad as it sounds because Team USA is likely the favorite for the Lacrosse World Cup scheduled for this summer.
NU’s offense was led by its three seniors, Taylor Thornton, Erin Fitzgerald and Amanda Macaluso who each had two goals. The real player to watch, and probably the key to NU’s hopes of winning the national championship again, is first-year goalkeeper Bridget Bianco. Bianco had 12 saves including a few from 8-meter attempts.
Bianco’s presence in net will be key to the season. Bianco only has seven games of experience under her belt last year as a freshman backing up Brianne LoManto. This is a big change for Northwestern that the team will be working through in the early part of the season. The last time the Wildcats did not win the national championship was in 2010, LoManto’s first year as goalkeeper after Morgan Lathrop’s graduation.
No pressure, Bridget.
Knowing Kelly Amonte Hiller and the program she has built, there should be little concern in net. This Wildcat team is already well on its way to defending that national championship. The season officially starts Feb. 8 in Los Angeles against Massachusetts.