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Original Issue

Wildcat Strike

Northwestern brings the women's NCAA lacrosse title to the heartland

In the fall of 2001 Northwestern's women's lacrosse moved up from club to varsity status, and new coach Kelly Amonte Hiller resorted to some desperate recruiting tactics to build a team. "She saw me and my twin sister jogging on the road, pulled the car over and asked, 'Do you play a sport?'" says All-America senior midfielder Courtney Koester.

At the time Koester and her sister, Ashley, now a defender, had never seen a lacrosse game. On Sunday they helped the undefeated Wildcats (21-0) clinch the NCAA championship with a 13-10 win over Virginia in Annapolis. It's the school's first national title in any sport since 1941, and the first time a team outside the Eastern time zone won the NCAA lacrosse championship. Said Koester, "I never dreamed I would be standing here right now."

It was also a mind-bending moment for the 31-year-old Hiller, the former two-time national player of the year at Maryland and current U.S. national team star: Four years ago she was practically teaching her players how to hold their sticks. "We had no clue what was going on," says senior attacker Sarah Albrecht, who scored three goals on Sunday. "It's indescribable to come from the bottom up." --Julia Morrill




Midfielder Kristen Kjellman scored five goals in the final and was the tournament's top player.