posted 05.18.2011 at 5.26 p.m. by Matt DaSilva

Is Albany the New Northwestern?

Twice on Wednesday I saw or heard references to the Albany women's lacrosse team as being similar to Northwestern when the Wildcats restored their varsity program in 2002.

The first reference came from CBS College Sports analyst Sheehan Stanwick Burch in a prerecorded Lacrosse Magazine Podcast that will be posted to on Thursday. We had just gotten off the phone with Great Danes standout Nikki Branchini -- the team was on its way for a meet-and-greet with the mayor of Albany -- and Burch talked about how the Danes' first-round win at Dartmouth really shut up the naysayers who thought their then-17-0 season was the product of a soft schedule.

"Albany reminds me a little bit of some of the early Northwestern teams, when they came back into the national spotlight and everyone doubted them," Burch said. "Lots of wins, but people thought their schedule wasn’t as tough as a Maryland or a Virginia."

The second reference came Northwestern head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller in an article by's J. Jude Hazard.

"They've proven all season long that they're not going to get shaken by anyone. That's kind of where my previous teams were in those situations when I first started the program," Amonte Hiller said. "That game against Dartmouth is a prime example. Dartmouth went up 3-0 right away and Albany was not shaken one iota. They fought back, they had confidence in their own abilities, and that's what we expect against them on Saturday."

"I know exactly where they're at in terms of a program," she added. "I've been in their shoes where you're undefeated and still no one believes you're any good. I've been there and I know how good this team is. They wouldn't be undefeated, they wouldn't have beaten a great Dartmouth team, if they weren't any good. Our team respects every opponent that comes on the field."

Seventh-seeded Albany (18-0) visits second-seeded Northwestern (18-2) in an NCAA quarterfinal Saturday at 7 p.m. Central.