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    Northwestern Knocks UMass from Ranks of Unbeaten, 10-6

    March 25, 2014

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    Northwestern

    (5-3, 1-1 ALC)

    No. 7 Northwestern 10, No. 10 UMass 6
    McGuirk Stadium • Amherst, Mass. • Attendance: 623

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    (9-1, 0-0 A-10)

    AMHERST, Mass. -- On a chilly Tuesday night in western Massachusetts, Northwestern senior Kelly Rich heated up the Wildcats attack with a career-best four assists while sophomore Kaleigh Craig netted a hat trick in a 10-6 win over 10th-ranked and previously undefeated UMass.

    Northwestern opened both halves with a pair of 3-0 runs to keep UMass at bay over the course of the night.

    In addition to dealing the Minutewomen (9-1) their first loss of the season, the Wildcats also snapped the hosts' 31-game home winning streak at McGuirk Stadium. Northwestern officially bookended that impressive streak, with UMass' most recent home loss before Tuesday also coming at the hands of NU in March of 2011.

    A native of Westwood, Mass., Rich has now shined in back-to-back games against her home state university; her career single-game high for goals (four) also came against UMass in the 2013 season-opener.

    The victory allows the Wildcats to head into their upcoming showdown with top-ranked and defending NCAA champion North Carolina on a winning note. The two teams last met in the 2013 national semifinals when UNC snapped Northwestern's eight-year run of championship game appearances. Opening draw at Lakeside Field on Sunday (March 30) is set for noon CT.

    UMass appeared to score the first goal of the game Tuesday night on its opening possession, but had it taken off the board when the shooter was ruled to have entered the crease. That gave the Wildcats the chance to open the scoring, which they did when Rich fed Christy Turner for Turner's fourth score of the year.

    Northwestern was then denied on its first few 8-meter attempts before Kat DeRonda broke through with a free position goal at the 15:58 mark to make it 2-0. NU would make it 3-0 only 58 seconds later when Rich set up Kara Mupo, and it wasn't until just over 16 minutes into the game when UMass finally got on the board with the first of Sam Rush's three goals on the evening.

    Rich came up with arguably the highlight of the evening with a stellar over-the-net delivery through traffic to set up Craig at the 10:51 mark, increasing NU's lead to 4-1. A second goal by DeRonda, this time on a wrap of the crease and top-shelf shot, with 3:02 left before half provided the Wildcats a 5-2 lead at the break.

    Northwestern started the second half strong, getting a save in the cage by Bridget Bianco to trigger their transition attack. Alyssa Leonard was on the other end of the break and fired home a left-handed sidearm shot to increase NU's lead to four.

    Craig then scored off a free position to set the count at 7-2, and Bianco made her second save of the half on a UMass 8-meter attempt. On NU's next possession, the Wildcats worked the ball around until Nancy Dunbar picked out Craig in traffic for her third goal of the game, forcing a UMass timeout at the 24:39 mark.

    After Turner was sent to the sidelines with a yellow card midway through the half, the Wildcats were able to extend their lead despite being a man down as Rich fed Mupo for a NU's ninth goal of the evening. UMass won the ensuing draw and scored quickly while still on the man advantage, setting the score at 9-4 with just under 13 minutes remaining.

    Leonard provided Northwestern an insurance goal when she created her own scoring chance for her 15th of the year and a 10-5 Wildcats advantage en route to the win.

    Defensively, Northwestern once again relied on the faceguarding ability of Kerri Harrington to eliminate their opposition's top offensive threat from the attack. On Tuesday, Harrington was matched up with UMass' Katie Ferris, who had amassed 44 points (4.9 ppg) entering the game, and limited Ferris to only one second-half assist and zero shots on the night.

    The Wildcats won 18 ground balls to UMass' nine on the evening, led by Turner's career-high-tying three.

    Northwestern now will spend the duration of NU's spring break week preparing to host defending NCAA champion and top-ranked North Carolina on Sunday. Gametime is slated for noon at Lakeside Field the first 500 fans in attendance will receive a free Northwestern Lacrosse winter beanie hat. The game also will mark the debut for the Wildcats on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, which will provide a live TV broadcast of the game throughout the greater Chicagoland area.

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