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    Wildcats Fall 13-12 Despite Furious Rally, Late-Game Fireworks

    April 19, 2014

    Northwestern

    (9-5, 3-3 ALC)

    No. 4 Florida 13, No. 5 Northwestern 12
    Lakeside Field • Evanston, Ill. • Attendance: 1,679

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    (15-2, 6-0 ALC)

    EVANSTON, Ill. -- For a brief moment, it appeared they'd done it.

    Trailing the nation's No. 4-ranked team by six goals with 17:25 remaining made for a bleak outlook for No. 5 Northwestern Saturday at Lakeside Field. But the Wildcats mounted a furious rally in the game's waning minutes and looked to have tied Florida at 13 when Kara Mupo scored off a restart with 14 seconds left in regulation.

    But the officiating crew determined that Mupo had stepped in the crease after she let her shot go, a violation that negated the tally and assured a highly dramatic 13-12 victory for the Gators Saturday in American Lacrosse Conference action.

    Even with less than five minutes to play, the Wildcats still were facing a four-goal deficit, until Mupo scored back-to-back goals to cut Florida's lead to two with 2:48 remaining. Less than a minute later, a Jess Carroll shot attempt was saved by Gator goalkeeper Mary-Sean Wilcox before bouncing fortuitously into the crosse of NU's Christy Turner, who quickly buried the rebound to pull the Wildcats within one and set up the late-game dramatics.

    Mupo finished with a season-high four goals, matching Florida freshman Sammi Burgess for game-high honors. Her last-second effort to score the game-tying goal came after Florida stepped on the endline while attempting to run out the final 15 seconds of the game, only adding to the improbability of NU's apparent comeback when Mupo's goal was disallowed.

    "You have to take a positive out of it," Mupo said of the game afterward. "We're down 11-5 and we come back and put ourselves in a situation like that, it shows how much fight we have and how hard this team works. Moving forward we've got to work on putting the ball in our court earlier and putting our shots away like we know we can do."

    Keying Northwestern's 7-2 run to end the game was the dominance in the draw circle of Alyssa Leonard, who finished with 12 draw controls -- more than the entire Florida roster collectively -- to create additional scoring opportunities down the stretch. Leonard, one of nine Wildcat seniors who were honored prior to their final home regular-season outing, also scored two goals on the afternoon.

    With the win, Florida (15-2, 6-0 ALC) secured the No. 1 seed in the upcoming ALC Tournament, slated for May 1-4 in Evanston. Northwestern's potential seed is still to be determined pending outcomes around the league in the coming days. The 'Cats and Gators have met in the championship game of the ALC Tournament each of the last three seasons.

    Northwestern, playing without the services of injured sophomore and leading goal-scorer Kaleigh Craig, found itself behind 5-1 less than halfway through the opening stanza, with only Lauren Murray able to tally for the 'Cats on an aggressive right-handed dodge through the fan. But NU countered with a 3-0 run sparked by a Jess Carroll goal off a spin-dodge at the 14:49 mark.

    Leonard and Mupo each converted 8-meter opportunities over the next seven minutes to draw Northwestern within one before Florida's Lauren Lea also netted a free position goal to put the visitors in front 6-4. UF's Sam Darcangelo then finished a pretty interior feed from Lea to give Florida a three-goal lead at halftime.

    With the scoreboard later showing an 8-5 Florida advantage, the Gators rattled off three straight scores, all unassisted, to open up their largest lead at 11-5 with 17:25 remaining. But momentum swung the other direction when, after Florida won the ensuing draw control, NU sophomore Spring Sanders batted down a Gator pass, scooped up the ground ball and raced to the cage to beat Wilcox in a one-on-one fast-break. The improbable goal -- Sanders recorded both her first career point and shot on the play -- gave hope to the Wildcats and the crowd of 1,679 at Lakeside Field.

    Northwestern scored twice more over the next 3:30 to pull within three at 11-8, but Florida had the answer and managed to regain a seemingly insurmountable four-goal lead with 5:31 left. That's when the Wildcats began the second half of their comeback attempt, ultimately falling just short when Mupo's goal was disallowed with 14 seconds remaining.

    "It's been a long road [for the senior class] and we want to go out with a bang this year," said Mupo, who will return in 2015 following last year's redshirt but who began her career as a member of the class of 2014. "We want to do it for not only the seniors, not only the younger players on the team, but for all the players who came before us. That's our plan moving forward."

    Wildcats goalkeeper Bridget Bianco turned in eight saves in the effort, while Carroll's two goals marked her first career multi-goal game.

    Northwestern now has one week to prepare for its debut at iconic Wrigley Field next Saturday, April 26 (7 p.m.) against the USC Trojans. Tickets for just $10 are still available and can be purchased by calling 888-GO-PURPLE or by clicking here.

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