Graduate attacker Lauren Gilbert returned to Northwestern this spring for her fifth and final season, picking up traction and adapting to change.
“We’ve been pretty much through everything this season — we’ve been in every position,” Gilbert said. “We’ve been up, we’ve been down, we’ve been tied, we’ve been down to the wire.”
It’s not the first time Gilbert has found herself attempting to beat the odds. She is originally from Oregon, a region where historically, lacrosse has not gained significant traction, according to coach Scott Hiller.
“This was a girl who came from a nontraditional area that didn’t play really at all as a freshman and just kind of put her head down and got better, and better and better to where she is now,” Hiller said. “That’s just an example that kids can look at, as times get tough.”
The Wildcats (15-4, 5-1 Big Ten) recently won their last game 15-12 over Michigan in the second round of the NCAA DI Women’s Lacrosse Tournament, advancing to the quarterfinals.
With senior attacker Izzy Scane out for the year with a preseason injury, the season seemed challenging at the outset. Yet Gilbert said the team was prepared for any obstacle that might trip it up.
“We were ready to have our backs against the wall in any way and be able to bounce back from it,” Gilbert said. “That’s just the type of team we are. Once we get rolling, we get rolling.”
Hiller said Gilbert focused on developing the team’s collective talent instead of shouldering the weight of Scane’s absence. With the loss of Scane, he said Gilbert has helped the team realize its potential as a group.
Coach Shelby Fredericks said Gilbert’s style as a leader is more focused on showing rather than telling. Gilbert might not have the most dominant voice on the field, she said, but her work ethic speaks volumes.
“You’re not really going to see her on the field constantly talking and vocally taking charge of the offense or things like that, but she leads by example,” Fredericks said. “She’s done that extremely well and has really done that for her whole time here.”
The example Gilbert sets is not only recognized by her team, but by outside bodies as well. This season alone, Gilbert was named the IWLCA Offensive Player of the Week and three-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for her performances against Rutgers and Syracuse, respectively.
Instead of slowing her momentum, Fredericks said Gilbert’s discipline has only gotten stronger.
“She believes in herself, she believes in her teammates and she’s just one of those people that nothing is going to get in her way,” Fredericks said.
Though Gilbert has devoted five seasons to the Cats, she said she sees her career as just one part of a larger picture of women’s athletic achievements at NU. She said she feels like she’s representing something bigger than herself.
Gilbert said the field hockey team’s national championship this past fall gave her chills — and the success of other women’s athletic teams inspires her team to reach for more.
Fredericks said Gilbert has already created a healthy environment for even more progress and talent to bubble to the surface after she leaves.
“Every single year, you have to create the culture that you want as a team,” Fredericks said. “(The team has) done an amazing job setting the standard of what Northwestern lacrosse is, and the future is incredibly bright.”
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