February 11, 2012

Northwestern Uses Big Second Half to Beat Stanford

from press release

STANFORD, Calif. -- Top-ranked Northwestern handled a challenging season-opening road test with relative ease Friday night, outscoring No. 6 Stanford 11-2 in the second half to secure an 18-6 victory at Cagan Stadium in California. Senior Shannon Smith and junior Erin Fitzgerald each posted hat tricks to lead a group of 12 Wildcat goal-scorers.

Northwestern was aided by a 20-6 advantage on draw controls, led by the nine collected by sophomore Alyssa Leonard.

"We didn't start out the way we wanted to defensively but I thought we really picked up in the second half," said head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. "Stanford is a great team so it was important for us to create opportunities and we were able to do that and earn some free positions. It's a solid first step for everyone to see what they need to work on before next week."

Speaking strictly of the offensive play, both teams looked to be in mid-season form immediately from the opening draw. Just 32 seconds into its season, Northwestern held a 1-0 lead thanks to an unassisted goal by Taylor Thornton. Smith got on the board for the first time less than a minute later when she collected a loose ball in front of the cage and quickly pushed it home to make it 2-0.

Stanford regrouped and knotted the score at two shortly after, but the Wildcats regained the lead when Ali Cassera finished a feed from Erin Fitzgerald. Cassera made it two in a row with her free position score, then Fitzgerald got into the scoring column when she dodged hard to her right and fired top shelf to give Northwestern a 5-2 lead with 18:32 still remaining in the first half.

Following a Lacey Vigmostad free position goal and one more Cardinal tally, Smith broke through with her second goal off another 8-meter. Smith's initial shot came off the helmet of goalkeeper Lyndsey Munoz, giving Smith the chance to collect the rebound and put it past Munoz to make it 7-4. That remained the score into halftime, with Northwestern taking a 19-8 edge in shots into the break.

Just as she did in the first half, Thornton opened the second-half scoring, this time off the free position eight minutes into the stanza. Munoz kept the Cardinal within shouting distance with multiple saves off the 8-meter, but could not turn away freshman Brooks Lawler at the 16:54 mark as Lawler netted her first collegiate goal.

As Northwestern seized control of the game, Fitzgerald sandwiched two free position goals around a Jessica Russo that was set up by Smith behind the crease, setting the score at 13-5. Two underclassmen connected on NU's ensuing goal as sophomore Kate Macdonald finished a good look by Casey Bocklet to ice the game for the Wildcats with under five minutes to go.

The Wildcats cruised past the Cardinal in the waning minutes, beginning with an unassisted goal by Beatrice Conley and finishing with three consecutive free position goals -- one each by Leonard, Kat DeRonda and Kelly Rich.

Senior Brianne LoManto finished with four saves in the cage for the Wildcats, while Munoz stopped 13 shots for the Cardinal.

Next week, Northwestern travels to the opposite coast for another early-season top-10 battle, squaring off with No. 5 Duke Sunday in Durham, N.C.


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