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    Northwestern Stands Up to World's Best in Champion Challenge

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Erin Fitzgerald netted two goals in NU's Champion Challenge matchup with Team USA Sunday.
    Erin Fitzgerald netted two goals in NU's Champion Challenge matchup with Team USA Sunday.

    Jan. 29, 2012

    Site: Orlando, Fla. (ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex)
    Score: Team USA 16, Northwestern 6 (exhibition)
    Records: N/A
    Next NU Event: Friday, Feb. 10 at Stanford -- 9 p.m. CT

    ORLANDO, Fla. -- Northwestern tested its mettle against arguably the best women's lacrosse team in the world on Sunday, falling 16-6 to Team USA in exhibition play at the U.S. Lacrosse Champion Challenge in Orlando, Fla. The matchup presented a chance for the current 'Cats to go up against a number of former Northwestern greats, who combined to score eight of Team USA's 16 goals.

    The Wildcats, who shook off a slow start and eventually found their rhythm to the tune five second-half goals, were led in scoring by Amanda Macaluso's two goals and one assist. Senior goalkeeper Brianne LoManto played the full 60 minutes in the net and made 11 saves. .

    "It's obviously a lot to handle, they have unbelievable players top to bottom," said NU head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller of Team USA. "We did a nice job battling and we did some good things defensively. It was just some little things that cost us -- ground ball battles, turnovers toward the beginning. We just have to keep working on those things before the season."

    Among the former NU stars now plying their trade with the U.S. National Team are Sarah Albrecht ('06), Katrina Dowd ('10), Lindsey Munday ('06) and Danielle Spencer ('10). Current Wildcats Shannon Smith and Taylor Thornton, also members of the U.S. National Team, suited up with the Wildcats after spending much of the weekend representing Team USA.

    Early on it was two of those Northwestern products putting the USA ahead, with Munday getting free in front of the cage for a goal before Dowd converted a free position attempt to make it 2-0. With the National Team pressuring NU into several early turnovers, the U.S. received a goal by Kelly Berger and one more from Dowd to set the score at 4-0 at the first media timeout.

    The Wildcats were able to set up shop on offense with 12 minutes to go in the first half and got their best look when Smith set up a cutting Kelly Rich, but Rich's shot was denied by USA goalkeeper Devon Wills.

    The NU connection of Spencer to Dowd gave Dowd a hat trick and the USA squad a 6-0 advantage with eight minutes remaining in the half. After a Katie Rowan tally made it 7-0, Northwestern got on the board when junior Amanda Macaluso made a hard drive into the fan and earned a free position shot. Macaluso buried it past Wills for NU's first goal with 2:32 to go in the opening half.

    Both teams continued to play an up-tempo, entertaining style in the second stanza with Spencer netting the first score of the half to make it 8-1. Fitzgerald answered for Northwestern when she cut down the middle and finished a feed from behind the net by Smith.

    After Dowd's fourth goal of the day for the U.S., Fitzgerald was on target again for the 'Cats, whipping a shot home off an assist from Macaluso. Sophomore Kelly Rich then created her own shot off a dodge and put it past goalkeeper Megan Huether to pull NU within six, 10-4, with 19:32 to go.

    After a three-goal USA run, Macaluso put away her second free position attempt of the day to set the score at 13-5. A few minutes later, Thornton got in on the scoring with a running shot to give Northwestern its sixth goal of the game. A late goal by Dowd marked her fifth of the game and set the final score at 16-6.

    Northwestern was aided by a strong performance in the circle by draw control specialist Alyssa Leonard, who helped NU win six more draws (15-9) than Team USA for the game.

    Team USA outshot the 'Cats, 34-17.

    On Friday, Feb. 10, Northwestern opens the 2012 campaign in earnest when it travels to face Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif.

    Northwestern Point-Scorers
    Amanda Macaluso: 2g, 1a
    Erin Fitzgerald: 2g
    Kelly Rich: 1g
    Taylor Thornton: 1g
    Shannon Smith: 1a


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