Fitzgerald and Fourth-ranked Wildcats Whack Harvard
from press release
EVANSTON, Ill. -- A Harvard program making its first-ever trip to Evanston learned the challenges that come with facing Northwestern at Lakeside Field as the Wildcats sped past the Crimson, 16-3, on a cold and blustery day at the lakefront. Senior attacker Erin Fitzgerald remained in a groove offensively by setting career highs for goals (6) and points (7) -- both single-game highs by a Wildcat this season -- and now has 21 goals in her last four games.
The three goals allowed by Northwestern are the fewest given up by the 'Cats since May 5, 2011, when it held Penn State to three in the first round of the American Lacrosse Conference Tournament. Harvard managed just 11 shots on the game -- compared to 38 by the Wildcats -- and sophomore goalkeeper Bridget Bianco made five saves while lowering her season goals against average to 6.82 goals per game.
Back on offense, senior Ali Cassera chipped in with a season-best three goals while freshman Christina Esposito scored twice and dished out her team-high eighth assist of the year.
Northwestern was in control early as it earned three straight 8-meter opportunities on its first possession, with Fitzgerald coming up with the game's first goal off the free position at the 28:37 mark. It proved to be the first of three consecutive 8-meter goals the Wildcats would score, with Alyssa Leonard and Fitzgerald tallying to give the hosts a 3-0 advantage.Throughout the first half, Northwestern continuously kept Harvard pinned its own end of the field with tireless pressure on the ride, and NU turned defense into offense at the 17:48 mark when a caused turnover allowed Fitzgerald to set up Cassera for NU's fourth goal of the day. Fitzgerald, who had a hand in four of the 'Cats' first five goals, dodged through the fan and scored four minutes later to extend Northwestern's lead to five.
Harvard's Danielle Tetreault finally put the Crimson on the scoreboard with an 8-meter goal with 11:29 left in the opening half, and the score would remain 5-1 for nearly nine minutes until Cassera netted her second of the day off a free position attempt. Cassera then made it two straight as she finished a feed from Esposito with 1:53 to play for her 10th goal of the year.
Havard pulled within four thanks to back-to-back 8-meter goals by team captain Micaela Cyr to open the second stanza, but Esposito accepted a pass from Leonard and scored at the 24:03 mark to re-up NU's lead to five. It was the first of nine unanswered goals by the Wildcats to end the game.
Fitzgerald contributed to the run by scoring her 26th, 27th and 28th goals of the season in a span of just two minutes and 49 seconds to blow the game open for Northwestern, twice using her speed and stick skills to elude Harvard defenders en route to the cage.
Senior Amanda Macaluso jumped in on the scoring nearly midway through the second half when she wrapped the crease and turned back to her off hand for the score, her 14th goal of the year. Esposito followed suit when she turned the crease to the opposite side, avoiding a defender and beating Harvard goalkeeper Melanie Cook over her shoulder with a low-angle shot.
With a 10-goal lead and a running clock in the works, junior Kelly Rich scored on the 8-meter for her ninth of the season before sophomore Brooks Lawler worked her way in front of the cage for an unassisted goal with 4:19 remaining. Sophomore Blake McHughrounded out the Northwestern scoring with her first goal of the season, finishing deftly with her left hand after a feed from freshmanNancy Dunbar.
Northwestern won a hard-fought battle off the draw circle thanks to six draw controls by Leonard and five by senior Taylor Thornton, who also notched three ground balls to pass former NU goalkeeper Morgan Lathrop for fifth on the school's career ground balls list. Thornton, the reigning Lacrosse Honda Sports Award winner, stands at 151 ground balls for her career.
With final exam week looming, the Wildcats are off from competition for 11 straight days before returning to action with three straight games at Lakeside Field. The stretch begins on Wednesday, March 27 (5:30 p.m. CT), against American Lacrosse Conference rival Ohio State in a game that will air live on the Big Ten Network.
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