Northwestern Ends Long Louisville Streak to Advance
from Press Release
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller entered this weekend with a 19-0 career coaching record in NCAA Tournament home games, but one would be hard-pressed to find a more difficult opening opponent faced by the Wildcats during their championship dynasty than the one they vanquished Sunday.
No. 16 Louisville, champion of the BIG EAST regular season and conference tournament, entered today's matchup having not lost a game since March 8 and fresh off a resilient overtime victory over No. 10 Ohio State Friday night. But the fifth-ranked Wildcats weathered the Cardinals' early efforts and went on a 4-0 run midway through the second half to pull away and post a hard-earned 11-8 victory at Lakeside Field in Evanston.
The win moves Northwestern into the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament, where they will face the winner of today's matchup between No. 4 Florida and Denver. That game is still ongoing Sunday evening, delayed due to severe weather in Gainesville.
"I thought we had some great moments, I was really proud of our defense for the way they came out in the first half," said Amonte Hiller after improving her career record in NCAA Tournament play to 35-3. "I think to stop that team, who is really explosive and really dynamic and who showed their toughness Friday against Ohio State, I was excited for our team and obviously am looking forward to another opportunity next week."
Leading the way for the Wildcats on attack was junior Kara Mupo, who scored four goals -- her fifth game with at least three goals in her last six outings - to improve her season total to 37.
Junior Jess Carroll scored two of Northwestern's first three goals to match her career high, while senior Alyssa Leonard notched two goals to go along with her dominance in the draw circle. Facing Louisville's Kaylin Morissette, who ranks alongside Leonard as one of the nation's top draw-takers, Leonard controlled nine draws compared to Morissette's three, allowing the Wildcats to build a 14-7 edge on draws for the day.
Carroll got Northwestern started with a hard dodge to her right hand and quick shot past U of L 'keeper Ashley Peacock, but the Cardinals' answer came in the form of sophomore Cortnee Daley. Dalee scored an impressive three straight goals in a span of nine minutes to provide the visitors a 3-1 advantage.
With the Wildcats still looking for their rhythm offensively, freshman Sheila Nesselbush came up with a much-needed 'scrappy' goal at the 12:43 mark of the first half. After a near-Wildcats turnover, Nesselbush outhustled her opponent to a loose ball and quickly put the ball past Peacock for the third goal of her rookie campaign.
After that, Carroll tied the score at three with a nifty move to her off-hand that caught Peacock off-guard in the cage. Northwestern then added an 8-meter goal from Lauren Murray to claim a 4-3 lead entering halftime.
On the other side of the break, Louisville struck twice in the first 3:37, including a fourth score by Daley. But Northwestern responded in fine form, with Mupo leveling the score at five with a free position tally, her 34th of the year.
Off the ensuing draw, Leonard won it cleanly to herself and took off for the Louisville cage, dishing it off to Kate Macdonald and watching as Macdonald fed Mupo for a layup on the crease, just 10 seconds after her previous goal.
Exactly 70 seconds after that, Leonard was the beneficiary of a feed from up high by freshman Lydia Cassada, and the senior turned and fired for her 36th score of the season. The pivotal 4-0 Northwestern run was then capped when Mupo took a handoff from Christy Turner and dashed down the right alley to score her third of the afternoon and give the 'Cats an 8-5 advantage.
Two goals by Louisville's Faye Brust were sandwiched around a Turner 8-meter goal, but the Wildcats used good ball movement and a patient mindset to preserve their lead in the final 10 minutes. Leonard and Mupo each scored easy goals on a stretched-out Louisville defense as the Cardinals brought pressure in an attempt to regain possession.
Both teams battled turnover woes for spells throughout the game, but Louisville ultimately turned the ball over four more times than the Wildcats -- with eight 'Cats contributing to NU's 10 caused turnovers on the day.
Defensively, senior Kerri Harrington kept the dynamic Nikki Boltja in check to the tune of two assists in the game. Boltja, who was coming off a seven-point performance against Ohio State Friday night, finished her prolific senior season with 71 goals and 100 points scored.
"Our senior class has been talking about being in the moment, every moment that we're given," Harrington said after the game. "[During a break with 12 seconds remaining in the game] we all came together and took a deep breath, and I said to our seniors, 'Let's enjoy this 12 seconds.' Who knows what the next round will bring, where we'll be, but it was really nice to take a deep breath, enjoy the setting and soak it in."
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