Another win for the purple chicks with sticks

In case you’re an NU fan who's been living in a cave these past few years, NU’s women’s lacrosse team has been pretty dominant.  So dominant, in fact, that coming into this year ranked No. 2 in the preseason has billing this team as “underdogs.”

Last year, if you remember, NU lost in the NCAA title game to Maryland, breaking a ridiculous string of five championships back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. But if early indications are any sign, the NU lady laxers definitely look like they’re back in championship form.

After winning their first four games, all on the road, including victories over teams ranked third, 10th and 11th, the Wildcats on Saturday thoroughly dismantled the No. 7 Georgetown Hoyas in Washington D.C., 25-14. Since I live in D.C., I took the opportunity to go see the Wildcats in action, joining a pretty raucous purple contingent that made up about ¼ of the crowd of 1,102.

The game was back-and-forth early, but after it was tied 3-3 about 15 minutes in, the Wildcats exploded with an 8-2 run to close out the half and never looked back. Shannon Smith, the reigning American Lacrosse Conference player of the week, had five goals and five assists to pace the NU attack, while goalie Brianne “Breezy” Lomanto made nine impressive saves in her 54 minutes of action, before giving way to backup Darby St. Claire-Barrie in mop-up time.

Alex Frank was nearly automatic in the faceoff circle, winning 17 of 22 draws, with the help of Taylor Thornton, the American Lacrosse Conference’s defensive player of the week, who controlled many of the draws that Frank sent her way.

This is the fourth time I’ve gotten to see the NU lacrosse team play live, and while I’m no expert, the Wildcats are impressive to watch, even to my untrained eyes.  If you think the Princeton offense in basketball is fun to watch when it’s clicking, Coach Kelly Amonte-Hiller’s offense is like the Princeton offense on steroids, with wave after wave of players making cuts, weaves and curls non-stop. NU’s transition game also led to many fast-break goals. Georgetown’s hapless goalie let in 16 goals and made just one save in 43 minutes; she was lifted for her backup, who fared no better.

On defense, the team swarms the ballhandler, and if a defender gets beat one-on-one, the help defense arrives quickly. NU plays aggressive D, which does lead to a lot of fouls and free position shots (the lacrosse equivalent to a penalty shot), but Lomanto looks to be a rock in goal.

Having spent its first five games on the road, the team returns home next Friday to take on Cal at Lakeside Field. NU then plays William & Mary in Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas, that monstrosity of a palace to football (and apparently lacrosse) that Jerry Jones has built. Seven other ranked teams still loom on NU’s tough schedule before the postseason, with five of those matches at home.

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