Lasota's Health, Stroup's Fifth Year Bode Well for Northwestern

PHOTO BY PEYTON WILLIAMS

Northwestern's Selena Lasota scored 119 goals in her first two seasons before missing all but four games in 2017 due to a lower-body injury.


US Lacrosse Magazine released the Nike/US Lacrosse Division I Women’s Preseason Top 20 on Jan. 8. Team-by-team previews will be unveiled on uslaxmagazine.com throughout January and will also appear as part of the magazine’s NCAA preview edition that mails to US Lacrosse members Feb. 1 — opening day of the 2018 college lacrosse season.

No. 11 Northwestern

2017 Record: 11-10 (4-2 Big Ten)
Coach: Kelly Amonte Hiller (17th year)
All-Time Record: 344-124
NCAA Appearances: 19
Final Fours: 10
Championships: 7

The pieces are in place. The players are healthy.

A veteran Northwestern team hungry to bring the venerable program back to its lofty perch is ready for the 2018 season. Following an adversity-filled 2017 in which their top scorer went down, but they still found a way to make the NCAA tournament, the Wildcats are primed for a year of ascendance that could see them return to championship weekend for the first time since 2014.

The most notable return to the lineup is that of Canadian sniper Selena Lasota, who played in just four games as a junior after scoring 119 goals in her first two years.

“Anytime she steps on the field she makes an impact,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “She’s that type of player. She’s really excited to get back into it. It’s a long time to be out, but she’s really ready to go.”

Lasota, who was sidelined with what the school termed a lower-body injury, is not the only key cog in place. Arguably the most important player for Northwestern’s success is senior captain Shelby Fredericks, who pulled down a school record 165 draw controls last season. Fredericks ranked third in the country last year in draws and dished a team-high 25 assists.

“She has really stepped up for us leadership wise in a captain role,” Amonte Hiller said. “Obviously, she’s crucial for us on the draw. She does such a good job. She has the quickest hands in the country, in my opinion. You will see how dynamic she is on the offensive end, how she can carry a team, step up for a team.”

When the 2017 season ended, Amonte Hiller and her staff thought they would have to replace their top three scorers who had graduated. A rule change by the NCAA made one of those seniors, Danita Stroup, eligible for a fifth year, bringing her 42 goals from last year onto the field for 2018.

“It’s great,” Amonte Hiller said of the NCAA rule change that allowed a fall transfer to regain eligibility for the spring season. “Anytime you can have a fifth-year [senior] or someone who has gotten an extra year like Danita, it makes a difference. Danita is so appreciative of the opportunity that she has. We got to call her this summer and tell her that she had another life to live, another year to play. And she’s playing like it. She’s doing a phenomenal job.”

Other key pieces in place that can help Northwestern will be All-American Claire Quinn, who moves back to midfield after an impressive year at defense, as well as third-year starter Mallory Weisse in net. 






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The Case For Northwestern

With 10 of 12 players back, a veteran Northwestern team will be ready for its difficult schedule, which features nine of its first 10 games at home. The Wildcats will be able to control the pace of play with a strong draw control game led by Fredericks, a strong offense led by the likes of Lasota and Stroup and an experienced defense.

If Northwestern can get on a roll in February and March, it will carry that confidence into the heart of the season and through conference play. That can yield the team’s first top two finish in the Big Ten and translate that into an NCAA semifinal appearance.

The Case Against Northwestern

A difficult schedule could conspire against the Wildcats. They might have a tough time stringing together a winning streak and build the necessary confidence to go on a deep tournament run. 

Not all is lost in this scenario, because Northwestern should still able to finish at least third in the Big Ten, which will translate in their 15th straight NCAA tournament appearance. Once there, a battle-tested team can find a way to win a couple games.

Path to the Playoffs

There are five teams on the slate that made it to the NCAA quarterfinals last year. Because of the difficulty of the schedule, the margin is greater, because the losses won’t harm the Wildcats’ top seed chances. Additionally, they reside in a conference that is home to the only two teams (Maryland, Penn State) to have reached the past two NCAA semifinals. 

Northwestern’s schedule sets them up earn a top seed, hosting rights and pave a path to the program’s first championship weekend appearance since 2014.

Players To Watch

Shelby Fredericks, M, Sr.
(165 DC, 25 A)

A dynamic player who can control the momentum of a game, Fredericks has the tools to lead her team to a successful season. Her dominance on the draw and improve offensive ability have the chance to propel her into a Tewaaraton discussion. 

Selena Lasota, A, Jr.
50 G, 48 DC (2016)

After a breakout freshman season (69 goals) and a solid sophomore campaign (50 goals), Lasota was set up for a special junior year. Can she bounce back from her injury to be the impact player she was before?

Claire Quinn, M/D, Sr.
45 GB, 36 CT

It’s not often an All-American defender has a four-goal game in the NCAA tournament, but that’s because she was transitioned to the midfield late in the year. If her transition continues in 2018, expect this aggressive player (team-high 36 caused turnovers and 13 yellow cards in 2017) to create problems for opposing teams on the clear and in offensive sets.

National Rankings

Category

Rank

Value

Offense 79th 10.71 GPG
Defense 34th 10.67 GAA
Draws 28th 13.95/game
Ground Balls 78th 16.95/game
Caused TO 92nd 7.67/game
Shooting 105th 36.2%
FP Shooting 88th 36.8%
Yellow Cards 1st 56
Assists 75th 4.38/game
Turnovers 27th 15.67/game
Shots 40th 29.57/game

Power Ratings (Scale of 1-5)

Offense
⭐⭐⭐

Defense
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goalkeeping
⭐⭐⭐

Draw
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

8

The number of Division I teams that had fewer draw controls than Shelby Fredricks (165) in 2017.

5-Year Trend
Scoring Defense

Year

Rank

Per Game

2013 7th 8.05
2014 19th 8.43
2015 49th 10.10
2016 60th 10.43
2017 34th 10.67

Coach Confidential
Kelly Amonte Hiller

“You only get 17 opportunities to play a game. When I look at it as a player, you get so excited about those opportunities to battle and fight through difficult situations. That’s how you really grow. You’re definitely taking a chance you could lose some games, but I think you’re also creating a scenario where you’re putting yourself up against the best and know that you can compete with anyone on any given day.”

Enemy Lines
Rival Coaches

“Big loss on the attack with Esposito graduating. Can Lasota dominate? ... If Lasota is healthy, watch out. If not, could be a long season. ... Return a powerful senior class, bring in a very talented freshman class. They looked very strong despite missing some key players in the fall. ... Goalie position is a question mark. ... They had some injuries that set them back last year, but they’ve also got some good freshmen coming into the mix. ... That big class they brought in are all seniors now. They have a culture of winning and I think they’re ready to make a pretty significant move. There’s plenty of talent there and the next couple of classes they’re bringing in will help. ... They have something to prove. They definitely will be playing with a chip on their shoulder. Selena Lasota’s back. They have some dangerous players. They have talent, but it’s a matter of putting it together. ...  They have a good goalie. I don’t think she’s played up to her potential. She’s really good. They’re always a tough team to play. They’re very physical. They have some great plays and great stickwork. If you make a mistake, they make you pay for it. You have to play clean against them. ... They’re going to be really good this year with Lasota coming back from injury. If they’re healthy, they’re one of the best in the country.”

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