April 14, 2011
Site: Gainesville, Fla. (Dizney Lacrosse Stadium)
Score: No. 6 Florida 13, No. 2 Northwestern 11
Records: NU (12-1, 2-1 ALC), Florida (13-1, 4-0 ALC)
Next NU Event: Saturday, April 16 at Johns Hopkins Baltimore, Md. Noon CT
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Sophomore Erin Fitzgerald scored a team-high four goals, but an early 5-1 deficit turned out to be too much for No. 2 Northwestern to overcome as the Wildcats dropped a 13-11 decision to sixth-ranked Florida Thursday night at Dizney Stadium in Gainesville.
Junior Shannon Smith added a hat trick for Northwestern, which trailed by five at halftime before pulling to within one, 12-11, on a Smith tally with less than seven minutes to go. But NU was kept in check the rest of the game as Florida held on for the win.
"Florida is a very talented, determined and well-coached team and they did what they needed to to win tonight," said Northwestern head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. "When you're as determined as they were you always have a chance to win."
Only 22 seconds into the game, Northwestern's own grit paid off when sophomore Ali Cassera won a physical battle for the opening draw control, giving classmate Erin Fitzgerald the chance to sprint through the Gator defense and rip a low shot for the Wildcats' first goal.
Florida answered one minute later with an Ashley Bruns tally, the first in what proved to be a five-goal Gator run. Kitty Cullen, the nation's leader in goals on the year, scored once in the run of play and again off a free position to make it 3-1 before a rebound goal by Caroline Chesterman increased the lead to 4-1.
After Florida's Mikey Meagher turned away a Fitzgerald shot attempt, Cullen came down on the other end and put the hosts ahead 5-1, presenting the Wildcats with their largest deficit of the season to date.
With 11:52 to play, Fitzgerald took another run at goal and this time made it count, again going low past Meagher for her 24th goal of the season. Shannon Smith followed her lead, finishing a dish in front by Alex Frank to cut further into the Gator advantage.
But goals by Chesterman and Janine Hillier restored a four-goal Florida lead as NU searched for a way to keep the hosts off the board. On the other end, Smith and Frank exchanged roles as Frank one-touched an over-the-goal feed from Smith for her 13th of the year.
Brianne LoManto recorded two big saves over the next few minutes, but Florida scored the last two goals of the half, the latter of which came with 26.8 seconds left off a pretty pass in traffic by Brittany Dashiell.
Northwestern led the draw control battle at halftime, 10-4, but surrendered five more turnovers and five more ground balls, allowing the Gators to own a possession advantage over the first 30 minutes.
As she did in the first half, Fitzgerald scored a quick goal out of halftime, and this time it led to a string of Wildcat goals. Smith scored an unassisted goal and, after another NU draw control win, Frank was true on a free position attempt to cut the Florida lead to two with just under 27 minutes remaining.
After the teams traded goals to set the score at 10-8, Amanda Macaluso looked poised to slice the lead to one with a pretty one-on-one dodge but was turned away at the doorstep by Meagher. That led to consecutive free position goals on the other end for Florida that put the home team up four once again, 12-8, with 14:44 to play.
Twice over the ensuing minutes, a save by LoManto on one end led to free position goals on the other for the Wildcats, first by Jessica Russo and again by Fitzgerald. With under seven minutes to play, NU cut its deficit to one for the first time since it was 2-1 when Smith got free behind the cage and wrapped around a shot past Meagher.
Cullen answered with her sixth of the night, and that turned out to be all the scoring Florida would need. A flurry of turnovers in the final minutes resulted in one final free position chance for NU, but Meagher was up to the task of making the save, a feat she duplicated on the rebound to seal the Gator victory.
The loss snapped a streak of 38 consecutive regular season victories in American Lacrosse Conference play by the Wildcats. NU handled the draw control battle, 17-9, but was handicapped by 13 turnovers and a minus-six differential in ground balls.
Senior midfielder Kirstyn Atkinson made her first-ever start in her 63rd career appearance for the Wildcats.
From Gainesville, Northwestern will travel up the East coast in preparation for another ALC foe, Johns Hopkins, at noon CT Saturday.
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