Northwestern Works for 8-4 Win Over Virginia
from press release
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- After being held in
check offensively in the first half by a stingy Virginia defense,
No. 5 Northwestern used a 4-0 run to close the game and pull out an
8-4 road victory over the 11th-ranked Cavaliers Saturday in
Charlottesville. A trio of Wildcats -- junior Jessica Russo,
sophomore Erin Fitzgerald and freshman Kat DeRonda -- each had two
points in the game.
The Wildcats held a 14-5 advantage in shots at the end of the first half but trailed on the scoreboard, 3-2, as UVA presented NU with its third halftime deficit of the year. With the score still tied at four and less than six minutes to play, Northwestern got a goal by Fitzgerald before Russo found a wide-open DeRonda on the doorstep as NU took its first two-goal lead of the game.
The late-game run was a welcome sight for Northwestern, which will carry a 15-2 record into next week's American Lacrosse Conference Tournament in Nashville.
"I think the biggest thing for us was to play together, that was our focus all week and by the end of the game we were doing the little things, cutting through for each other, getting ground balls," Russo said. "Kelly (Amonte Hiller) had us moving the ball around more than we did early in the game and (Virginia) slid to me and Kat was wide open, I'm glad she put it away."
Virginia scored off its opening possession 1:21 into the game, but NU answered by also scoring on its first trip into the offensive zone when Kara Mupo finished a virtually uncontested free position shot for her 18th goal of the year.
Shannon Smith picked up the ensuing draw control and allowed NU to set up a possession that eventually led to Jessica Russo creating with a spin to the inside and score a left-handed goal for her 16th of the year. But the Cavaliers almost immediately pulled level at two on a goal by Caroline McTiernan exactly six minutes into the contest.
After back-to-back point blank saves by Virginia 'keeper Kim Kolarik, a series of turnovers in the midfield left Virginia with the ball, and they took advantage when Charlie Finnegan quick-sticked a pass from behind the net to give the hosts the lead.
On the next 'Hoos possession, Northwestern goalkeeper Brianne LoManto got a solid piece of a Virginia shot that then richocheted off the post. NU's luck turned on the other end, however, as Russo saw her blast clear Kolarik but ring off the right upright, leaving NU down 3-2. The two goals represented NU's lowest output in a half this season.
NU forced turnovers on consecutive Virginia possessions -- first by Lacey Vigmostad and again by Mupo -- only to have good looks on frame denied first by the post and then by Kolarik up high. Defense continued to reign the rest of the half as Virginia protected its 3-2 lead into the intermission despite NU's 14-5 advantage in shots. It was the third time this year Northwestern trailed at the break having split the previous two outcomes.
Sophomore Amanda Macaluso got Northwestern on track with an unassisted goal less than three minutes into the second half, but both squads again put the clamps on defensively after that as the score remained tied at 11 for over 11 minutes.
Shannon Smith appeared ready to break the scoreless streak when she rifled a fast-break shot on goal, but her shot clanged off the crossbar instead. When NU regained possession, Smith directed the offense from behind the net and worked for an open look that she buried with 16:06 to play, keeping intact her streak of 39-straight games with a goal.
After several more long possessions by both teams -- and a key save by LoManto on a UVA quick-stick attempt -- Virginia's Finnegan struck with 6:31 to play to tie the score once again. But Fitzgerald responded less than a minute later, shrugging off a hard cross-check to put away her attempt off the restart and give the Wildcats the lead for good.
Northwestern earned some breathing room shortly after thanks to a well-executed offensive set. A wide-open Kat DeRonda was the beneficiary of a Russo feed from behind the net, and DeRonda finished with ease to set the score at 6-4.
With momentum decidedly on Northwestern's side, junior Alex Frank scored her 17th goal of the year with 1:06 to go and DeRonda added the final tally as time expired, her sixth of the season.
With the draw control battle split nearly 50-50, Northwestern's defense came up huge while the offense worked to find its groove, with Lacey Vigmostad forcing three turnovers and Frank forcing two more. The `Cats also played with discipline in the back field: Virginia did not have one free position attempt the entire game.
Northwestern begins postseason play on Friday, May 6, at the ALC Tournament hosted by Nashville. NU, which has won all four ALC Tournaments since the event's inception in 2007, is the No. 2 seed and will play in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m.