Northwestern lacrosse was tied in overtime with USC, 11-11, when freshman Selena Lasota got the ball. She had already scored three goals in her first game as a Wildcat, helping them overcome a six goal deficit earlier in the contest. Lasota fired a shot on goal, and it beat the Trojan keeper to give the Wildcats an opening game victory.
Since those four goals in her Northwestern debut, Lasota has scored over 200 times in her career. The senior attacker has one of the best shots in all of women’s lacrosse, and her ability to beat defenders in one-on-one situations has made her one of the nation's premier scorers. Lasota also plays with a competitive fire that isn’t just noticeable when she has the ball. Sometimes her most impactful plays are when she sprints to chase down an opposing defender trying to clear the ball, or when she comes up with an important ground ball.
Lasota is one of the most aggressive players in the sport, and that attitude stems from the way she learned the game. She grew up in British Columbia playing box lacrosse – think lacrosse but with boards, and a net and goalie more similar to hockey than traditional lacrosse. It is a very physical game so Lasota, who played with her brothers, had to learn how to play tough.
She started playing women’s lacrosse extremely late (her junior year of high school), but quickly improved and began playing in competitive tournaments. It was at one of these tournaments in Florida that she was identified by the Northwestern coaching staff.
Lasota burst onto the scene as a freshman, scoring 69 goals and being a huge part of Northwestern’s run to the NCAA quarterfinals. She added 50 goals and 17 assists her sophomore year. However, early in her junior season she suffered a season-ending leg injury. Lasota said the months of recovery that followed were incredibly difficult, but were important to her development as a player.
“I really learned that lacrosse is a huge part of my life,” Lasota said. “The biggest thing I learned was I really love lacrosse. I need it.”
Lasota focused on her stick skills during her time off and she returned for her redshirt junior season stronger than ever, scoring 70 goals and adding 18 assists.
Now Lasota is a senior and despite all the goals and awards, she has not accomplished something she came here to do: Make a Final Four. Lasota joined a program in 2015 that had been to the Final Four 10 straight years, including a run winning seven out of eight national championships. However, since Lasota joined the team, the Wildcats have not made the national semifinals once. Despite this Lasota and her teammates still have their eyes set on Baltimore, where this year’s Championship Weekend will be held.
“It would just be so exciting,” Lasota said. “When you get there you’re the last teams in the country to be playing so it’s an honor to just be playing, and then at those times whoever shows up on that day wins the game.”
And this is a team that Lasota really believes could do it. They have a lot of young talent, but winning big games is about more than just having talent. As a leader on the team Lasota has seen some differences in this team that could allow them to be more successful than in previous years when the NCAA tournament comes around.
“Our team is pretty lighthearted,” Lasota said. “Practice is really fun, we’re always laughing and dancing. We’re trying to diminish the self-loathing if there’s a mistake and our team really has each other’s back.”
There has also been a shift in Selena’s playing style that could contribute to a deep run in the tournament. Lasota has improved a lot as a passer during her time as a Wildcat and she is averaging more than one assist a game, the best pace of her career. Her ability to draw defenders and distribute to the younger stars of the team will be vital for the Wildcat success.
This season has a chance to be a milestone year for Lasota. She currently sits 44 goals behind Shannon Smith who holds the record for goals in program history. With a successful next two months, Lasota could get the Wildcats back to where the belong - Championship Weekend - and could cement her legacy as a record setter and one of the program’s all-time greats.