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    Northwestern Outlasts Ohio State, 9-8, Advances to ALC Championship

    May 2, 2014

    Northwestern

    (12-5, 3-3 ALC)

    No. 5 Northwestern 9, No. 10 Ohio State 8
    Lakeside Field • Evanston, Ill. • Attendance: 445

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    @NULax on Twitter | ALC Tournament Central

    (13-6, 3-3 ALC)

    EVANSTON, Ill. -- If future Big Ten Conference meetings between Northwestern and Ohio State are anything like the last four they contested as members of the American Lacrosse Conference, lacrosse fans everywhere are in for a treat.

    For the fourth straight time, the 'Cats and Buckeyes played to a one-goal outcome, this time a dramatic 9-8 Northwestern victory in the semifinals of the 2014 ALC Tournament in Evanston. Trailing well into the second half, NU relied heavily on the play of senior leaders Alyssa Leonard and Christy Turner to secure their eighth straight -- and last -- appearance in the ALC Tournament title game.

    As it has each year since 2011, third-seeded Northwestern will once again face a top-seeded Florida squad in the championship matchup after the Gators defeated Johns Hopkins, 11-6, in the evening's first semifinal contest. NU, which avenged a one-goal regular-season loss to the second-seeded Ohio State in the semifinal, will attempt to do the same against the Gators at 11 a.m. CT Sunday (May 4) in Evanston. The 'Cats have defeated UF in two of the last three ALC championship games and have won six of seven all-time ALC Tournament crowns.

    But on Friday, NU's bid for an eighth straight ALC title game appearance appeared in jeopardy when it trailed 6-3 with less than 20 minutes remaining on the clock. But in a span of just six and a half minutes managed to score six of the next seven goals -- all courtesy of members of its senior class -- to claim a 9-7 advantage with 12:22 to play.

    Naturally, the game was far from decided at that point, and remained in question right down to the final moments when Ohio State's Cian Dabrowski was awarded a straight-on 8-meter attempt with 18 seconds to play and the Buckeyes trailing by a goal. But Dabrowski began her approach on the cage prior to the referee's whistle, resulting in a turnover and the end of Ohio State's ALC title hopes.

    In her 83rd career game played with the Wildcats, Turner netted her first career hat trick on attack, while Leonard matched Turner's three goals and added an assist and eight draw controls in the victory. Northwestern controlled 10 of 11 draws after halftime to spark its comeback and sustain momentum.

    It was a stark contrast from the first half, when Ohio State led for nearly the duration of the period and won five of eight draw controls. OSU's Katie Chase, who did not play in the Buckeyes' first-round win over Michigan, scored the first two goals of the game before Kat DeRonda and Leonard provided the answer to level the score at two apiece.

    Northwestern then struggled to find a rhythm offensively as Ohio State opened up a 4-2 advantage, but Leonard was able to pull the Wildcats within one when, with 18 seconds remaining before halftime, the senior darted from the end line and soared over the crease to beat ALC Goalie of the Year Tori DeScenza from an acute angle for her second of the night.

    Early Northwestern turnovers in the second half allowed Ohio State to extend its lead to 6-3 on unassisted goals by Kelsea Ayers and Katie Chase, leaving NU searching for answers on the offensive end with less than 20 minutes to play. The answer came in the form of Turner, who scooped up a loose ball around the crease and fired past DeScenza for her first score of the evening.

    A minute later, DeRonda went hard to the cage off a restart inside the 12-meter arc and scored her 32nd goal of the year, but Ohio State's Katie Chase struck back with her fourth of five goals to keep the Buckeyes in front by a pair. But off the ensuing draw control, Leonard snared the loose ball and raced 50 yards to score unassisted, capping her hat trick and cutting the NU deficit to one.

    On the very next play, Leonard again won the draw and, following a whistle in the midfield, crossed the restraining line before finding Turner on the run and watching as Turner dodged past a defender to score and level the count at seven-all. Just two minutes later, the 'Cats executed an offensive set to perfection, with Turner accepting a pass from Kate Macdonald in front of the cage and firing past DeScenza to give NU its first lead of the night.

    Just over 60 seconds later, Kelly Rich found herself in a similar position off a dish by Lauren Murray, and Rich calmly scored her 11th of the year to give Northwestern a two-goal cushion.

    After a fifth and final Chase goal for the Buckeyes, the Wildcats managed to drain precious time off the clock before a turnover returned possession to Ohio State with 3:08 to play. The Buckeyes than worked the clock down under 30 seconds to play in an effort to hold for the final shot, which they appeared to do successfully until Dabrowski's false start off the 8-meter arc.

    Sophomore Spring Sanders aided the Wildcats cause with three caused turnovers and two ground balls, while Macdonald chipped in three ground balls, two draw controls and a caused turnover.

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