## Dominant Cats fulfill season expectations Northwestern lacrosse coach Kelly Amonte Hiller had only one goal for her team in its third year of varsity status. "We want to improve at the fastest rate possible," said Amonte Hiller, who was named the American Lacrosse Conference Coach of the Year. The Wildcats met their coach's goal. After last season's 8-8 run, the Cats began the year ranked No. 20 nationally and were predicted to finish fifth in the seven-team ALC. Instead, NU (14-3, 5-1 ALC) had the best season in team history. For the first time ever, the Cats earned a share of the conference title, finished ranked sixth nationally and enjoyed a 13-game winning streak. Only No. 2 Virginia could halt their season in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. The Cats' NCAA appearance was their first in 16 years. Early in the season, the Cats were successful but looked lucky. They snagged three of their first six victories by only one goal, and were barely eking out wins against mediocre teams. The turning point came April 4 against Connecticut, when the Cats earned their first of four dominating wins against respected teams. That was the breakout game for freshman phenom Kristen Kjellman, whose eight goals ignited her team to an 18-4 romp of the Huskies. Kjellman solidified her role as sparkplug for the Cats' offense, which began pumping after the match. "Now we're a top team," freshman Aly Josephs said during that streak. "Now we're there." The team began climbing the polls and playing with more confidence. NU proved its status among the nation's best by beating then-No. 6 Notre Dame on April 20 and then-No. 9 Johns Hopkins on April 25. In those two games, the Cats complemented aggressive offensive starts with solid defense. NU emerged as momentum team. If the Cats were able to snatch a lead, their defense could relentlessly hold off the opposing team while the offense kept pumping. NU's attack was well-balanced, and it nearly doubled last year's goal total. Sarah Albrecht, Laura Glassanos, Lindsey Munday and Lindsay Finocchiaro were consistent scorers, and Kjellman and Josephs could trigger the team's momentum with their dramatic scoring outbursts. Even the NU bench showed its strength in the Cats' three most one-sided wins, in which at least nine NU players scored. Kjellman led the Cats in goals (53) and points (70), and finished the season as the ALC's Rookie of the Year. Seniors Courtney and Ashley Koester are "two of the nation's top defenders" according to Amonte Hiller, and they're also the team's MVPs. The twin sisters were able to shut down key opponents while also acting as role models for younger players. "Without them, I feel like our team wouldn't be where we are," freshman Kristen Boege said. Goaltender Ashley Gersuk was invaluable, finishing the regular season fourth in goals-against average. She denied opponents in tight situations -- when the Cats held a slight lead or were mounting a comeback attack. The season ended when it did only because of the team's main weakness: Its youth and inexperience. The squad has eight freshmen and five sophomores. In the Cats' three losses, all to top-10 opponents, they simply did not have the experience to outplay veteran teams. But next year, the team will have lost only senior Angela McMahon. The Cats' roster will be full of mature players who have had lots of playing time and have confidence they can win.