CHICAGO (CBS) -- Kelly Amonte Hiller's Northwestern University squad set to try and win its first title since 2012.
The Wildcats earned the number four national seed this season and will host a regional on Friday in Evanston. As CBS 2's Matt Zahn explains, that's despite losing the best lacrosse player in the country to injury.
"I think we all kind of knew in our hearts just sank. 'Oh my god, did that really just happen?"
That's Lauren Gilbert talking about the moment teammate Izzy Scane went down with a season ending knee injury. Scane was a superstar for Northwestern's lacrosse team last year, leading the nation with over six goals a game last year. But the Wildcats would have to play this season without her.
"Everybody has to step up. That's what being part of a team is. Have to be ready to take on new role. With Isabel being such a prolific scorer and big player, we had to fill that role of leadership. Lauren and Jill have stepped up. (It's) been a collective effort as well," Hiller said.
"I've taken on a heavier load. Give a lot of credit to my teammates. You're not going to replace Izzy. She set records last year. She was an unprecedented player in women's lacrosse so you're not going to replace that with one person. But it's been a collective effort," Gilbert said.
It has been grad student Lauren Gilbert that's done the most stepping up. Her 63 goals lead the team and has her ranked in the top 10 nationally. It's been quite a journey for Gilbert, who has gone from a barely contributing freshman to a team leader.
"In my freshman year, I think I had a total of four points in the season. I really lost a lot of confidence in myself as a player. I definitely give a lot of credit to Kelly and family and this environment for pushing me in positions where I could do this," Gilbert added.
"See a player go from not much to becoming a confident superstar. Lauren Gilbert is a prime example of coming from a non-traditional. They come in and grow and learn, and also the mental side of the game, and be better. Have that confidence," Hiller said.
That is part of the reason the Cats have sustained success. And they're in position again to hopefully make another deep postseason run. They've been to the last two Final Fours, falling in the national semifinals each time.
"We're coming with a chip on our shoulder. I think you saw that against Syracuse. They beat us last year. They ended our perfect season. Just wanting it more," said Jillian Girardi, Midfielder and Northwestern graduate student.
"I think we have what it takes to beat any team," Gilbert said. "I think it's a just matter of us being disciplined to do it."
"We've had the same outcome the two years we've gone to the Final Four, so we just are ready to change the narrative," Girardi said, who said it there's a way to do it.
"Working our butts off."
The Wildcats will host Central Michigan at 4:00 p.m. Friday in the first round, followed by the Notre Dame and Michigan match. The second round match is Sunday.
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