April 21, 2012
Box Score |
Site: Evanston, Ill. (Lakeside Field)
Score: No. 5 Florida 8, No. 1 Northwestern 7
Records: NU (14-1, 4-1 ALC), Florida (15-2, 5-0 ALC)
Next NU Event: Wednesday, April 25 vs. Notre Dame Evanston, Ill. 7 p.m. CT
EVANSTON, Ill. -- A much-anticipated matchup between top-5 opponents and conference rivals did not disappoint in terms of excitement but No. 1 Northwestern fell to No. 5 Florida, 8-7, before a crowd of 1,578 fans at Lakeside Field Saturday afternoon. Trailing by three goals at halftime, the Wildcats seized a 7-6 lead with 20 minutes remaining but were kept in check down the stretch in falling from its post as the last unbeaten team in Division I women's lacrosse.
The Gators notched the go-ahead goal on a dodge down the right side of the fan by Gabi Wiegand, leaving Northwestern 5:47 to search for the equalizer. The Wildcats regained possession with 53 seconds to play on a Florida turnover, setting up a frantic final rush on goal for NU. Florida's defense withstood the attack, however, keeping NU from ever getting a clean look on frame.
Northwestern received two goals each from senior Shannon Smith and junior Erin Fitzgerald as well as a goal and an assist by Taylor Thornton. Junior Gabriella Flibotte was active all afternoon in the midfield and finished with five draw controls, three ground balls and one goal.
Both teams needed time to settle down defensively, with the offenses combining for six of the game's 15 goals over the opening 10 minutes of the contest. After two Gator goals opened the scoring in the first four minutes, Smith put the Wildcats on the board when Casey Bocklet found the senior all alone on the left side of the crease.
Two minutes later, Thornton earned and converted an 8-meter opportunity for her 20th goal of the campaign. But the teams were tied at two for only 10 seconds as Florida's Kitty Cullen took the ensuing draw control and raced down the field for her first and only goal of the afternoon.
After a free position goal by the Gators set the score at 4-2, both teams were kept off the scoreboard for a stretch of nearly 17 minutes until Florida received a tally by Brittany Dashiell with 3:27 before halftime.
The Wildcats stepped up their aggressiveness coming out of the intermission, which paid off in the form of back-to-back free position goals for Fitzgerald in the first four minutes out of halftime. Following the latter of Fitzgerald's goals, Flibotte tracked down a draw control and raced through the Florida defense, netting her fifth goal of the season only 16 seconds after the previous NU goal.
Once again, Florida quickly broke the 5-all tie as Ashley Bruns finished a feed by Nora Barry to restore a Gator lead just 27 seconds after Flibotte had evened the score.
Minutes later, the Wildcats capitalized on two more free position opportunities, both times by setting up their teammates off the restart. First it was Thornton hitting Kat DeRonda coming around the crease for the goal, before Fitzgerald and Smith mirrored the play to give NU its first lead of the game with 20:51 to go.
Florida's Barry drew the visitors level one minute later, and the two teams slowed down the pace of the game over the next 15 minutes without being able to break the tie. Senior goalkeeper Brianne LoManto recorded two of her six saves in that stretch, but could not get a stick to Wiegand's game-winner with 5:47 to go.
LoManto's six saves put her over 400 for her career (405), good for fourth all-time at NU.
Both squads struggled to overcome turnovers throughout the game, with Florida committing six unforced turnovers and 11 total for the game, while NU finished with nine miscues.
With the win, Florida becomes the first team to record wins over Northwestern in consecutive seasons since Vanderbilt did so in 2003 and 2004. NU came into the game with a 23-game winning streak dating to April 16 of last year.
The Wildcats now prepare for a pair of challenging nonconference games to round out the regular season, beginning with a midweek matchup against Notre Dame at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Lakeside Field.
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