April 8, 2011
Site: Evanston, Ill. (Lakeside Field)
Score: No. 2 Northwestern 14, No. 15 Penn State 5
Records: NU (11-0, 2-0 ALC), Penn State (6-6, 1-2 ALC)
Next NU Event: Sunday, April 10 vs. No. 8 Penn Evanston, Ill. Noon
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Second-ranked Northwestern turned what was a first-half defensive struggle into a blowout Friday night, outscoring No. 15 Penn State 10-2 over the final 30 minutes to drop the Nittany Lions, 14-5, in an American Lacrosse Conference matchup. Junior Shannon Smith netted her only three goals of the game in a span of less than three minutes in the second stanza while freshman Kara Mupo notched a pair of tallies for the second straight outing.
Junior Alex Frank and sophomore Taylor Thornton each found the back of the net twice in the opening frame, with Thornton breaking a 2-2 tie in the game with a free position score at the 13:18 mark. Frank followed suit five minutes later when she took a spot-on feed from behind the net by Smith and calmly put it away for her 11th of the season.
But Penn State took advantage of its own offensive opportunities and soon was back within one following an unassisted goal by Maggie Dunbar to set the score at 4-3 at the break.
Northwestern may very well have been looking up at the visitors on the scoreboard at intermission had it not been for five big first-half saves by goalie Brianne LoManto. With just over a minute left before halftime, the junior showed off her reaction time when she turned away a bouncing shot with her lower leg, preserving NU's one-goal advantage.
"We just talked at halftime that we want to be more aggressive, especially off our transition, and we got more of that as the game went on and gained some momentum," said head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. "(Brianne LoManto) played great, she was making big saves in both halves and I thought the defense played great, we really focused in this week on fundamental defense and we did a god job of that."
Northwestern's first goal out halftime was a creative one; with less than two minutes gone by, Erin Fitzgerald forced her way down the left side of the arc and tried to fire a shot under duress. Her attempt instead bounced across the goal mouth, where Mupo was waiting to swat it past Penn State goalkeeper Dana Cahill.
Three minutes later, Jessica Russo put the hosts ahead 6-3 with a right-handed blast in front of the cage that came while Russo was falling to one knee.
After sophomore Ali Cassera sandwiched an unassisted goal between two Nittany Lion tallies, Smith began making her presence in the game known. The nation's points leader struck at the 14:42 mark and, following a Lacey Vigmostad draw control, took a pass and darted down the field, bouncing the ball through Cahill's legs just 15 seconds after her previous goal to put NU in front, 9-5.
She completed her hat trick by taking on four defenders on the right wing and slotting it past Cahill to essentially put the game out of reach for the Nittany Lions. But goals in the waning minutes by Mupo, Beatrice Conley, Brooke Matthews and Alyssa Leonard served to remove any and all doubt that may have surfaced in the first half.
Northwestern outshot Penn State 23-12 in the second half and 34-22 for the game. Both teams were turnover-prone through much of the night, with the Nittany Lions handing it over 16 times compared to 11 by the Wildcats, leading to a fast-paced tempo to the game.
Leonard led a solid Northwestern effort on the draw control, hauling in five to up her team-best season total to 46.
Northwestern's three-game homestand against top-15 opponents concludes Sunday when the Wildcats host No. 8 Penn in a game to be televised live by the Big Ten Network. The first 500 fans through the gates at Lakeside Field will receive a free T-shirt as the Wildcats aim to 'Paint the Lake Purple.'
"Penn's a great program, very well-coached and they always come out strong against us," Amonte Hiller said. "We just need to refocus, go over the game plan tomorrow and build on the momentum we gained tonight."
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