Chicago Sun-Times
with Tina Akouris

May 2012 Archives

            Northwestern's Taylor Thornton fell short of winning the prestigious Tewaaraton Award as the nation's top lacrosse player Thursday, getting beat out by Maryland's Katie Schwarzmann.

            Thornton, a midfielder from Dallas, led the Wildcats to their second consecutive national title and seventh in the last eight years Sunday in Stony Brook, N.Y.

            The Wildcats finished 21-2 and Thornton played in all 23 games, scoring 33 goals. 

            A couple of weeks ago, on May 17 to be exact, an e-mail went out to Illinois alumns from the university's alumni association.

            It read:

            "ILLINOIS: Chicago's Big Ten University; Illinois alumni don't need an expensive roadside billboard to let people know we're the best public Big Ten university in Chicago! Instead, make your case in your office space by displaying your loyalty for everyone to see. As we welcome 7,000 new graduates to the alumni family, we know that, together, we can uphold the greatness of our Alma Mater."

            And then the e-mail provides a link to download some Illinois-themed wallpaper.

            Taking a shot at Northwestern's marketing slogan -- Chicago's Big Ten Team --  was another hit at NU in the increasing rivalry between the two schools -- not to mention the athletic departments.

            New Illinois football coach Tim Beckman may have started this new phase of the rivalry when he said in his opening news conference that he'll never wear purple. Then he put a sign with the Wildcats' logo in the Illini locker room -- and adorned it with a red circle and a line through it.

            And NU football coach Pat Fitzgerald fired back when he referred to Illinois as "that school down in Champaign." (Fitzgerald has used that phrase before, though, in reference to a couple other Big Ten rivals. So it's technically nothing really new.)

            The e-mail from the UIAA is a new shot, however, and you have to wonder how far the two schools are going to take this rivalry.

            After the two played in the Wrigley game in 2010, Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson said the Illini were really Chicago's Big Ten team.

            And back in October when Illinois beat NU in Champaign in Dan Persa's first game back from the ruptured Achilies tendon, Illinois played "Sweet Home Chicago" over the P.A. system.

            The distaste between the two has been there for a very long time. Among students (non-athletes, too) there's always been a haves and a have-nots kind of mentality. It's not something that is going to go away anytime soon. Nor should it.

            NU marketing chief Mike Polisky and athletic director Jim Phillips (ironically, an Illinois grad) politely declined to comment.

            But you know they're probably thinking of what's going to come up I-57 next.

Northwestern women's lacrosse wins again

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            Northwestern's football team may have trouble winning a bowl game and the men's basketball progam may have never earned a bid to the NCAA tournament, but one thing is for sure: the women's lacrosse team is going down in history as the best in the sport's history.

            The Wildcats beat Syracuse 8-6 Sunday night in Stony Brook, N.Y. to win their seventh national title in the last eight years. NU finishes its championship season 21-2.

            Tewaaraton Award finalist Taylor Thornton, one of five finalists for the award, scored the winning goal for the Wildcats with 9:55 to go in the game. It seems fitting that Thornton scored that go-ahead goal and that she's probably going to earn that Player of the Year award when it is announced in the next few days.

            Shannon Smith, the 2011 Tewaaraton Award winner, scored two goals for NU and so did Erin Fitzgerald.

            Syracuse ended its season 19-4.

            The Wildcats dominance in women's college lacrosse is obvious. They won five consecutive national titles from 2005 to 2009. In 2010, NU lost to Maryland in the title game, but turned around and beat the Terrapins in 2011 for the championship.

            NU beat Maryland Friday night in the semifinals to earn a trip to the finals, while the Orange upset No. 1 Florida in double overtime in the other semifinal.

Northwestern releases 2015-16 football schedules

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            Among the highlights of Northwestern's 2015 and 2016 football schedules, which were released Tuesday, are home-and-home series with Duke and Stanford and seven home games at Ryan Field in '15 and '16.

            The Wildcats will play the Blue Devils and the Cardinal in both years, and will also host Eastern Illinois and Ball State in 2015. TheWildcats open the season in 2015 with a home date against Stanford on Sept. 5 and then travel to Duke on Sept. 19.

            NU opens the 2016 campaign at home Sept. 3 against Western Michigan and then faces Illinois State for another home date a week later.

            In 2016, the Wildcats host Duke Sept. 17 and travel to Stanford Sept. 24.

            Among Big Ten contests, the Wildcats bypass Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.

            Here are the 2015 and 2016 NU schedules:


Sept. 5 vs. Stanford

Sept. 12 vs. Eastern Illinois

Sept. 19 at Duke

Sept. 26 vs. Ball State

Oct. 3 at Iowa

Oct. 10 vs. Minnesota

Oct. 17 at Nebraska

Oct. 24 Open Date

Oct. 31 vs. Purdue

Nov. 7 at Indiana

Nov. 14 vs. Michigan

Nov. 21 vs. Michigan State

Nov. 28 at Illinois 


Sept. 3 vs. Western Michigan

Sept. 10 vs. Illinois State

Sept. 17 vs. Duke

Sept. 24 at Stanford

Oct. 1 vs. Nebraska

Oct. 8 at Purdue

Oct. 15 at Michigan 

Oct. 22 vs. Iowa

Oct. 29 at Minnesota

Nov. 5 Open Date

Nov. 12 vs. Indiana

Nov. 19 at Michigan State

Nov. 26 vs. Illinois

Northwestern football makes plans for 2015, '16

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            Northwestern will open the 2015 Big Ten football season at Iowa and will not play Penn State, Ohio State or Wisconsin in either 2015 or 2016.

            The Big Ten released its conference football schedules for 2015 and 2016 Monday, and the Wildcats seem to have drawn the favorable stick.

            In 2015, NU hosts Minnesota, Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State while going on the road to face Nebraska, Indiana and Illinois.

            In 2016, the Wildcats open Big Ten season at Ryan Field against Nebraska and end the season with a home game against Illinois -- which could be somewhere other than Evanston, like Soldier Field. NU's other home games for 2016 include Iowa and Indiana, with road trips to Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota.

            After beating No. 6 Texas in the first round of the NCAA tournament and then topping Houston 13-9 Saturday, Northwestern's softball team moves on to the regional finals Sunday in Austin, Texas. It is the fifth regional championship appearance for NU in the last eight years.

            The Wildcats' 17 base hits tied a single-game school record that was last accomplished on March 3, 2007 against Stanford.

            Mari Majam led the Wildcats and went 4-for-5 with three runs. Marisa Bast had three hits and four RBIs to reach 68 for the year, two shy of the school record, and Adrienne Monka drove in four runs which gave her 198 for her career.

            Amy Letourneau (13-9) earned the win in relief, allowing four unearned runs in 5.2 innings of work. She gave up three hits and seven walks with two strikeouts.

The annual Northwestern Gridiron Network's auction will have a new twist this year when the June 2 event takes place at Soldier Field from 5-10 p.m.
There will be a free bus from Welsh-Ryan Arena to take fans to the event and parking at Soldier Field is free.
A wine raffle will feature 100 bottles of wine to a lucky winner, and parents can win a day for their child as the kickoff tee retriever. Tickets are $175 per person and include beverages and food. 
To find out more about the NGN auction, contact Jean Yale at or 847-491-3694. 

Northwestern softball headed to NCAA tournament

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            Northwestern's softball team found out at the last minute Sunday night that they are headed to the NCAA tournament after receiving an at-large bid.

            The Wildcats ended the regular season on a six-game winning streak, no doubt propelling them to their at-large bid. NU also won eight of their last nine games to finish 27-27. By finishing at .500, the Wildcats got the "bare minimum" of wins to get invited into the tournament.

            What else helped the Wildcats? Having the country's No. 1 ranked nonconference strength of schedule.

            The Wildcats return to the tournament after a two-year absense. NU had made seven consecutive NCAA tournament appearances from 2003-09 and advanced to the women's College World Series twice.

Northwestern's Erin Fitzgerald comes through

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            Notre Dame keyed in on Northwestern's Shannon Smith -- limiting the Wildcats' lacrosse star to only one goal and one assist -- but the Fighting Irish didn't have enough firepower to take down the defending NCAA champions, and NU won its opening round NCAA tournament game 12-7 Saturday at Lakeside Field.

            The No. 2-seeded Wildcats (18-2) advance to the quarterfinals next weekend, where they will play either Duke or Virginia at Lakeside Field. Duke and Virginia play Sunday.

            Smith now needs only one goal to tie the school's all-time career scoring record of 250 goals.

            But because Notre Dame (13-5) nearly shut out Smith, Erin Fitzgerald was able to record a hat trick, and Lacey Vigmostad notched two goals in about a minute late in the second half.

            "Shannon was getting a lot of pressure and had her head up a lot," Fitzgerald said. "I happened to be the open girl."

            The Wildcats led only 5-3 at halftime before exploding for seven second-half goals. Notre Dame got as close as 10-7 with 5:18 to play on Betsy Mastropieri's goal, which quieted the 600 fans who braved the drizzle and wind.

            But then Vigmostad scored two unassisted goals, one at the 3:41 mark and another at 2:18 to put the game away.

            "You're going to have to wear people down," NU coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said of the postseason.

            A day after the Bulls' playoff run ended against the Philadelphia 76ers, owner and team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was the featured speaker at Northwestern's College of Law graduation Friday afternoon at the Chicago Theater.

            Reinsdorf, NU Law class of 1960 and White Sox owner and chairman, started the 10-minute speech by ribbing the Sox and Bulls for not playing as well as people had hoped. The Bulls lost their playoff series four games to two and the Sox are 15-17 and in third place in the AL Central.

            "I'm even more pleased that the invitation wasn't reovked the way the Sox and Bulls have been playing," Reinsdorf said. "I've had a lot of people cancel appointments on me. The other night, I drove up to a Motel 6 and they turned the light off."

            Reinsdorf was given 10 minutes to give his speech and "my wife said it was two minutes more than I needed."

            Among the bits of advice he gave to the graduating class:

            "I found out that as you get older, you don't get smarter, you just find fewer things you haven't seen before."

            "When somebody asks you a question, the answer you have to give is 'Why do you want to know?' "

            "You compete against yourself, not against anybody else."

            "The top 10 percent of the people you encounter are not that smart. They're just not as dumb as the other 90 percent."

            "Never ever lie unless its to your spouse -- but even then it's only to be kind."

            "When you're making a deal, leave something on the table for the adversary. Don't take away your adverary's dignity."

            "You canot buy a good reputation, you have to earn it. And you can't sell a bad reputation, because it's yours forever."

            "Clients fire lawyers who seek problems. They never fire lawyers who find solutions."

Northwestern lacrosse opens postseason Saturday

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            Northwestern's lacrosse team begins its national title defense Saturday when the Wildcats host Notre Dame at Lakeside Field in their first NCAA tournament game.

            The No. 2-seeded Wildcats (17-2) are coming off their second loss to Florida this season, a 14-7 defeat. It was the second time NU lost to Florida this season, the first being an 8-7 loss.

            And that 14-7 loss was NU's worst since 2003.

            The Wildcats beat Notre Dame 17-7 about two weeks ago in Evanston, probably a good omen according to Taylor Thornton. It was NU's first game back after the Florida loss and the second time the Wildcats faced the Fighting Irish after losing to the No. 1-seeded Gators.

            "Notre Dame is always a great opponent," Thornton said. "I think it definitely does [help that NU has played the Irish recently], because we know their actions and their tendencies. We feel no pressure at all."

            Thornton, the American Lacrosse Conference Player of the Year, was named a finalist Thursday for the Tewaaraton Award given to the most outstanding player in men's and women's lacrosse. The junior defender from Dallas is among five finalists for the award, which will be announced May 31.

            Thornton was named the 2011 National Defender of the Year and has scored 27 goals in 19 games for the Wildcats.

            If the Wildcats beat Notre Dame, they will advance to the quarterfinals and play either Duke or Virginia at Lakeside Field.

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