It's been less than a month since nationwide restrictions due to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, wiped out sports across the country, but Lauren Gilbert is ready.
Gilbert, a 2017 graduate of Lake Oswego High School, is ready for her next term at Northwestern University (now online only) ready to work out and improve, and ready — so, so ready — to get back to playing lacrosse.
Gilbert, 21 and a junior on the Northwestern women's lacrosse team, saw her spring season come to an end on March 12 after playing just seven games. Needless to say, she is still mourning the loss of her team's 2020 campaign.
"It all happened so quickly that it didn't feel real at first," Gilbert said. "I was definitely in denial that first day, but it really hit me when I woke up the next morning and accepted my new reality. There were a lot of tears to say the least."
During her high school career at Lake Oswego, there wasn't much that Gilbert didn't accomplish. As a senior, she led the Lakers to a Three Rivers League championship and a second straight Oregon Girls Lacrosse Association state title.
At the end of that year, she was named to the all-Three Rivers League first team, all-state first team, All-American first team and was named winner of the Oregon Sports Awards Prep Lacrosse Player of the Year. In addition, Gilbert was also named the Lake Oswego Review 2017 Athlete of the Year.
She's kept up that incredible pace at college, too. As a freshman, she played in 17 games and finished with three goals, one assist, 11 ground balls and six draw controls as the Wildcats went 5-1 in the Big 10 Conference and 15-6 overall before ending their season in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals.
Gilbert's college career hit high gear last year when she started all 21 games at attacker, finishing with 52 goals (third-best on the team) with a .491 shooting percentage, 13 assists (fourth-best), 23 ground balls, 10 caused turnovers and 10 draw controls. Her efforts helped the Wildcats go 5-1 again in Big 10 play, 16-4 overall and advance to the NCAA semifinals.
She also won a berth on the Academic All-Big Ten team.
School: Northwestern University
Year in School: Junior
Major: Journalism with a minor in Spanish and a marketing certificate
High School: Lake Oswego, Class of 2017
The Wildcats and Gilbert were ready for more this year, too, going 4-3 in their first seven games against some of the best teams in the country, including top-ranked North Carolina, No. 24 Stanford, No. 7 Syracuse, No. 7 Notre Dame and No. 20 Duke.
Gilbert, again starting as an attacker, had already racked up 25 goals and nine assists (second in both categories on her team) while shooting .641, along with seven ground balls, three caused turnovers and 19 draw controls. She ranked second in the Big Ten in goals per game (3.57) and third in points per game (4.86), all of which made the loss of the Wildcats' 2020 spring season even tougher to take.
"I struggled to find any sense of relief … for several days following the cancelation as the abrupt ending and lack of closure felt unbearable to me," she said. "(But) as time has passed, I've been trying to stay positive and put things into perspective because I know that many people are suffering far greater losses during this time."
And there are reasons for hope, too. Gilbert, who's been spending time with her family and working out, is hoping students will be allowed to return to school after another month and was buoyed by the NCAA's Monday, March 30, ruling that Division I athletes playing spring sports will be granted another year of eligibility.
"Just hearing this news has brought me a lot of optimism," Gilbert said. "I get a very limited amounted time to compete in my sport at the highest level because professional opportunities are minimal. If the circumstances allow for it, I would love to take full advantage of an extra year of eligibility."
For now, though, it's back to her studies, back to work on her fitness and lacrosse skills, and next year, back to Northwestern for another shot on the lacrosse field.
"My plans for next year are to complete my senior year, and beyond that, hopefully return for a fifth year of lacrosse at Northwestern and get a graduate degree in the process," she added.
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