Returning to the beautiful Northwestern campus just north of Chicago never fails to stir emotions in Colorado lacrosse coach Ann Elliott.
However, it is a homecoming currently delayed thanks to Mother Nature.
Elliott, a Northwestern alum and an assistant with the vaunted Wildcats program before taking on the challenge of starting the team at Colorado, could only sit and watch the snow fall Wednesday, revising the Buffaloes' plans for a key nonconference road trip to Northwestern and Michigan.
The Buffs' original travel plans called for the team to leave Wednesday for a Thursday game at Northwestern. Wednesday's weather kept the team in Colorado, with tentative plans set to fly to Chicago on Thursday. The game has been rescheduled to Friday at 11 a.m. MDT, with the finale of the road trip still slated for Sunday at Michigan.
"We have been working with our travel agent and our administration to work on other options to get out tomorrow once the weather clears up," Elliott said. "Our athletic director, Rick George, my supervisor and our business office have been extremely helpful, and as long as Mother Nature cooperates we will be flying out tomorrow to Chicago. Northwestern's head coach, Kelly Amonte Hiller, and their administration has been working with us as well to coordinate moving the game to Friday."
Although the Buffs played at Northwestern last year, the weather hiccup delays Elliott's opportunity to show her mentor, Amonte Hiller, just how far her Buffaloes have progressed in the program's third season.
Off to a 6-1 start, the Buffs have tallied at least 15 goals four times and suffered their only loss on the road against a Notre Dame team that has climbed to No. 4 in the nation. The delayed game against Northwestern, followed by Sunday's date against a Michigan squad that had a near-miss against now-No. 2 Florida, provides the Buffs with another opportunity to measure the improving state of the program in the final nonconference games of the season.
"It is an incredible opportunity for our program," Elliott said. "Northwestern is a great team, an established team with a proven history. They have played what I believe is the toughest schedule so far this season and they are tested. Coming from Northwestern, I have modeled a lot of this program after my time there. If we can achieve a fraction of what they have since Kelly built the program in 2002 we would call ourselves quite successful. "
Currently ranked 15th, Northwestern has collected a total of seven national championships. The Wildcats won three of those with Elliott on the roster and another three with her on the coaching staff.
In 2002, Amonte Hiller took over a program that had been dormant for a decade, and just four seasons later Northwestern hoisted its first national championship trophy. By then Elliott was on board, creating a template for the future CU coach to follow when tasked with starting her own program.
"I am very fortunate for the experience I had at NU both as a player and a coach," Elliott said. "I learned a lot from Kelly over those eight years. When I left to come to CU Kelly told me to trust myself, my values, and have confidence. She has given me a lot of advice over the years, she continues to give me advice, but this has stuck with me.
"When you are building a program I believe the most important part is the foundation and culture. This has been what we have focused the most on. What is Colorado lacrosse? How do we want to be known? And what do we do every day to define ourselves? Just like my time at NU, we focus on getting better every day, individually and as a team, and we focus on the little things."