A mentor's moment in the spotlight

    The Wildcats didn't need to score any more goals in the last three minutes of their clash against Penn on Saturday.

    Already with a 14-8 lead, Northwestern had stopped Penn’s slowly mounting momentum and regained a definitive command of the game. As the clock wound down, senior midfielder Alexa deLyra checked back in.

    With just over two minutes remaining, deLyra knocked down a pass from Penn’s Maddie Poplawski, picked up the ensuing ground ball and moved the ball up the field. The Cats would control the ball until their next goal. The offense passed around the arc, aiming to end the possession with the ball in deLyra’s stick and then the back of the net.

    “I didn’t understand what they were doing at first but then once I realized, I was like, this is definitely going in,” deLyra said. Her teammates’ efforts paid off: deLyra caught a pass behind the net, rolled the cage and scored off a beautiful spin move. Players on the field threw their sticks up to the air and ran over to hug their senior. The bench went “just out of our minds,” as junior defender Kerri Harrington put it.

    deLyra’s goal was the last of the game, her first of the season and the second of her career.

    “They appreciated that I could get a little piece of the fame,” deLyra said. “It was just really good to know that they really appreciate me so much.”

    In a class with Northwestern legends like Taylor Thornton and Erin Fitzgerald, deLyra’s name is seldom mentioned and often forgotten. But on Saturday’s Senior Day game, she proved to her team why she has been an irreplaceable player on this championship squad. For four years deLyra has put in the same number of hours as every other senior on the team, but she's only appeared in 29 games.

    That doesn’t matter much to deLyra. Instead, she said she focuses on her own role on the team: prepping her teammates for games.

    “It’s rewarding to see everyone on the field really does have a purpose,” she said. “It’s great when we have a good game and you know that you worked your teammates really hard and you prepared them really hard.”

    Before Senior Day, deLyra hadn’t scored since Feb. 27, 2011 against Vanderbilt. She also logged one assist in 2011 and 2012, giving her a total of three points in her career. But more than goals scored or minutes played, deLyra notes she values her teammates more than anything else. “We would do anything for each other,” she said after practice Tuesday. That includes giving up a starting spot for a friend. On Saturday deLyra started for the second time of her career, replacing Harrington.

    “I wouldn’t really say I gave up my spot for Alexa,” Harrington said. “She 100 percent earned it and deserves it.”

    Head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said Harrington thanked her for giving deLyra the start, showcasing how players on the Wildcats want to play for each other as much as themselves.

    “Alexa is such an unselfish person, has been such a pillar for this team,” Amonte Hiller said. “She does so much that goes so unnoticed.”

    From here on out deLyra may not see too much playing time, as Northwestern will begin ALC Tournament play on Friday against either Penn State or Vanderbilt, the first team she scored against. But she will continue to fill the niche she has carved out for herself: a mentor, a teammate and a friend.

    “Whether it’s helping us with our 1-on-1s or helping us with our term paper, she’s a reliable person,” Harrington said, “and I’m really gonna be at a loss without her next year.”


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