March 11, 2013
WATCH: Game Highlights | Amonte Hiller/Cindy Timchal CBS Sports Network Interview
Score: No. 4 Northwestern 15, No. 20 Navy 12
Site: Annapolis, Md. (Memorial Stadium)
Records: Northwestern (6-1, 2-0 ALC), Navy (6-1, 1-0 Patriot League)
Next NU Event: Saturday, March 16 vs. Harvard Evanston 1 p.m. CT
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Tested on the road by an up-and-coming and previously unbeaten Navy squad, No. 4 Northwestern broke a 10-10 tie in the second half by scoring five straight goals and emerged with a 15-12 win over the 20th-ranked Mids Monday at Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
Senior attacker Erin Fitzgerald recorded five goals for the third consecutive game, a contest that featured seven ties and saw the lead grow no larger than two goals in either team's favor until there were 13 minutes remaining.
Also keying Northwestern's attack was freshman Christina Esposito, who handed out a career-high three assists and scored one goal, while junior Alyssa Leonard notched a hat trick to go with one assist. Leonard also collected a game-high seven draw controls, increasing her NCAA-leading total on the year to 57.
The game pitted two teams playing similar up-tempo and aggressive styles from start to finish, with NU head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller standing opposite from her mentor and former collegiate head coach, Cindy Timchal of Navy. The two have combined to win 15 NCAA championships since 1995 and 619 games in their head coaching career, both earning induction into the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame last fall.
"Navy came out and played a great game and it took us a little while to match that energy," said Amonte Hiller, who was coaching on the same field where she guided Northwestern to its first NCAA championship as head coach in 2005. "I thought we did a good job of staying together and making the plays down the stretch when we needed to. This can be a learning experience for us and a chance to improve moving forward."
Navy managed to handle Northwestern's high-pressure defense early and posted the first two goals of the game before Esposito put the 'Cats on the scoreboard with a bouncing shot on the crease five and a half minutes into the contest.
The Wildcats pulled level thanks to a Taylor Thornton 8-meter goal five minutes later and, after a Navy goal by Kathy Young, the teams traded goals in a span of 17 seconds as the Mids retained a one-goal advantage. Esposito then notched her third point of the first half with a feed to junior Kelly Rich for Rich's eighth score of the season.
Senior Amanda Macaluso then converted a free position before Fitzgerald took it upon herself to weave her way through five Navy defenders and score to give the Wildcats their first lead of the afternoon, 6-5 with 11:07 left in the half. Northwestern increased its defensive pressure on the ride and caused several Navy turnovers as a result, though both teams remained scoreless for the next nine minutes of game action.
Fitzgerald ended the drought with a free position goal with 2:12 remaining in the first, sending NU to the locker room with a 7-5 advantage. Navy goalkeeper Annie Foky helped keep the score tight with eight saves through the first 30 minutes.
The scoring picked up early in the second half, with Navy scooping up a loose ball and firing it home 33 seconds out of the intermission to get within one. Leonard pulled it right back for NU by winning the draw and racing downfield for the goal only nine seconds later, setting the count at 8-6. Navy remained unfazed, scoring twice to equal the score at eight before Thornton countered with her second free position goal of the day.
After the hosts tallied on a fast break to tie things back up at nine, Fitzgerald netted her third of the day and 20th of the season to restore a 10-9 edge. But the lead lasted just two and a half minutes before Navy drew level again on a free position -- the seventh tie of the afternoon.
Northwestern finally gained some breathing room thanks to Esposito's third assist of the day, this time feeding Leonard from behind the cage. Off the ensuing draw control, Northwestern set off on a fast break that culminated with Jess Carroll finding Macaluso alone on the crease to give the 'Cats a 13-10 advantage.
Fitzgerald then recorded her fifth of the day when Leonard found the senior All-American cutting across the fan and, following a save at the other end by Bianco, Flibotte expanded the lead to five with her sixth goal of the year at the 6:51 mark.
Navy's Jasmine DePompeo scored twice by curling the crease in the waning minutes to close the Navy deficit to three and rack up her seventh and eighth points of the game (five goals, three assists). But Northwestern won a key draw control and was able to protect its lead down the stretch to earn a hard-fought road victory.
Flibotte finished with another productive effort in the midfield with five ground balls, four draw controls and three caused turnovers.
Northwestern won 10 of 16 draw controls in the second half to finish with a 17-12 edge in that category, also claiming a 17-13 advantage in ground balls.
After winning three games in the last six days, Northwestern can now look ahead to a four-game homestand that kicks off against Harvard this Saturday, March 16. Opening draw is set for 1 p.m. CT with live online video coverage provided by the Big Ten Digital Network.
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