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Roundtable: Which NU program has the best chance to win a national championship in the next decade?

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Two spring sports made significant strides within the past season on a national stage, but who has what it takes to go all the way?

Northwestern Lacrosse celebrates their 2012 national championship, the most recent such title for a Wildcat team. Courtesy of the New York Times.

When we asked for questions for our recent spring mailbag, one query stood out as requiring the full staff’s take. In the mailbag, we mentioned that women’s lacrosse seems like the frontrunner to bring the next championship home to Evanston, but Mike Deneen asked us on Facebook who besides Kelly Amonte Hiller’s squad was most likely to bring home the trophy. That question is more wide-open, so here are our writers’ takes.

Avery Zimmerman - Women’s Golf

This is a team that consistently flies under the radar due to the nature of the sport. Golf isn’t going to attract the attention of revenue sports or even more popular non-rev sports such as lacrosse and softball, but the Wildcat women’s golf team has had unrivaled success in terms of Northwestern athletics in the last seven years.

The ‘Cats are one of only two teams that have finished in the top-15 in the nation over that span, and an upset defeat to Arizona State in the match play final of 2016 was the only thing between Northwestern and a national title. This year, NU just missed out on the match play stage of the NCAA Championships, but the team presents the best chance for national glory in the future for Northwestern.

Matt Albert - Wrestling (National Champion Sebastian Rivera)

My bold return to the site comes with a pick equally as bold. I think the only team who will win a national championship in the next ten years is lacrosse (I think they get it done even before this year’s freshmen graduate). Based on that underlying belief, I think that Northwestern will also have a champion wrestler *cough cough Sebastian Rivera* before the redshirt sophomore graduates. However, the team will not win the national championship.

Eli Karp - Softball

You can probably guess where I’m going here. Tell me it’s not softball. Okay, that’s what I thought. Northwestern softball is back, and it is here to stay. At the program’s peak in 2006-07 it made consecutive Women’s College World Series appearances and was a national runner-up in 2007. This program has the potential to get back there and maybe just win the darn thing.

You are probably tired of me or others raving about the freshman class. Soon they won’t be freshmen, and if Kate Drohan’s track record is anything, this talented bunch should continue to develop and get better. Combine that with the inappropriately deep pitching staff that could feature two aces in Danielle Williams and recruit Sydney Supple, and I am hard pressed to say there’s another team on this campus with a better chance to win a natty in the next decade.

Joe Weinberg - Football

What’s the point of blogging about sports if you’re not going to be overly optimistic about your team’s goals and aspirations? Here’s my totally realistic forecast for Northwestern football in the next ten years:

Hunter Johnson gets the Wildcats a Rose Bowl win in the next three seasons and sets the stage for a massive wave of four-star, five-star guys to choose Northwestern in the coming years. Kurt Anderson and Peter Skoronski take the Northwestern offensive line to new heights and in the next six years, Northwestern is a perennial Big Ten power and the team to beat in the Big Ten West. The national championship naturally follows after that.

Noah Coffman - Women’s Tennis

Claire Pollard has coached the women’s tennis team at Northwestern for 21 seasons. In each of those years, the team has reached the NCAA Tournament. Under Pollard, the Wildcats have racked up Big Ten Championships in 17 seasons and gotten to the national quarterfinals thrice. NU has been on the precipice of breaking through nationally while achieving tremendous conference success during Pollard’s reign, and it stands to reason that a national title is a distinct possibility.

The Wildcats will lose a couple of pieces for next year, but return their top two singles players in Julie Byrne and Clarissa Hand. More importantly, as evidenced by the success of Hand in her freshman season (reaching the round of 32 in the singles championship), Pollard is still recruiting as successfully as ever. Like a lot of other impressive programs at Northwestern Wildcat women’s tennis has yet to get fully over the hump, but their consistent success makes it appear to be a distinct future possibility.