May 5, 2008

Men's lacrosse falls to NU in rainy Stagg debut

[img id="80567" align="alignleft"] Bad luck struck twice at Stagg Field Friday night—first in the form of an electrical storm that canceled the women’s lacrosse game and later as an overtime goal that lifted Northwestern past the men’s team.

On a dreary night that was supposed to feature the first two club-sports competitions at the new Stagg Field, it looked for a while like there might not be even one. In the end, though, the skies cleared shortly after the women’s game was called off, and the men got their chance to take the field for a hard-fought 12–11 loss to Northwestern’s club squad.

Playing the Wildcats for the second time this season, the Maroons seemed to have learned from that previous experience for most of the game, opening up several two- and three-goal leads over the visitors. Chicago had beaten the Cats with a limited roster earlier this quarter, and it appeared that a strong performance from the full complement of players at Friday’s game would help the South Siders maintain their bragging rights.

But whatever advantages the Maroons brought into the game fizzled down the stretch. Though the Wildcats trailed 5–8 at one point in the third quarter, three defensive lapses in a span of three minutes allowed Northwestern to knot the game at eight before the period was up.

Each time, the Cats brought the ball downfield quickly and, with Chicago’s defense still out of place, hit a man standing by the right post with a short entry pass. The Northwestern players always shot from a difficult angle, but at such close range it didn’t matter. All three times the Wildcats buried the ball in the back of the net.

Finding their footing once more, the Maroons got a go-ahead goal before the third quarter ended and one more as the fourth was getting underway, but the Wildcats responded to the two-goal run by getting three more of their own. Northwestern’s trio of goals put them up 11–10, and with less than five minutes to go until the final whistle, Chicago had to scramble for a point.

With the Wildcats playing in a noticeably more defensive style, the Maroons were thwarted in their attempts for a tie on their first couple of trips downfield. But with just over two minutes remaining, the team found nylon when second-year Geoff Anderson’s shot rocketed out of a jumble of players in front of the Northwestern goal and past the Cats’ hapless goalie, garnering a relieved round of cheers and applause from the Chicago faithful.

Despite several promising looks, neither squad broke the tie during the remaining moments of regulation, and the game headed into a golden-goal overtime period. The tension in the stands was palpable, but the assembled fans didn’t have to wait long for a resolution: just a couple minutes into the overtime, a well placed Northwestern shot beat the Chicago keeper and earned the visitors their victory.

“Northwestern played a lot better than we expected,” fourth-year John Connor said. Connor is one of the club’s founders and its current captain. “And we made some careless errors that we normally don’t make.”

The game was not without its highlights for the Maroons, though. Third-year Sam Haddaway scored twice in one of the evening’s standout performances.

“He joined the team two years ago having never played the game before and has come a long way,” Connor said.

The game was the last of the season for the team, which finished its spring campaign 7–2.

Even though the final tally wasn’t what they had hoped for, the men still made out better than the women, who didn’t make it to the opening face-off against Northwestern. The Maroons were already on the pitch when the rain started to fall, and while they kept warming up for a few minutes, they were forced to run for cover once the rain got heavier and the lightning began.

With the prospects of the game being played looking dim, the Northwestern women decided to head back to Evanston. Naturally, the rain relented and the sun broke through the clouds just a short time later.

“We are trying to reschedule a game, but it is hard for us to get time on Stagg Field, so we will probably play up at Northwestern,” captain Ritika Khilnani said. “There is a small chance that we will be able to get a game here.”

The rainstorm didn’t dampen spirits at the men’s game. Undeterred by the weather, a vocal contingent of students and parents turned out for free barbecue and the unusual opportunity to see Maroon lacrosse in action.

“I put a lot of time and effort into putting this event together and had a vision for how I wanted it to turn out,” Connor said of the game, which he thought of and organized. “Given the conditions, it turned out a lot better than I expected.”