May 23, 2008
Box Score (PDF) |
Box Score |
TOWSON, Md. -- Thanks to the combination of an aggressive offense and stifling defense, Northwestern showed their desire for a fourth-straight national championship with a convincing 16-8 NCAA semifinal victory over fifth-seeded Syracuse. NU is now one game away from capturing its fourth-straight title and cementing its status as a dynasty.
"I was really pleased with how well the girls played," said Wildcat head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. "They really wore Syracuse down a bit. I wanted them to come out fearless and not be afraid to take chances, and it paid off big time."
Junior Hilary Bowen (Rochester, N.Y./Brighton), the reigning tournament MVP continued to shine on the sport's biggest stage, netting six goals to pace the Wildcats, extending her consecutive goal streak to 39 straight games. She now has 78 goals on the season, surpassing Kate Oleykowski's 76 as NU's single-season goal leader.
An eerie case of déjà vu unfolded in the national semifinal as the Wildcats used practically the same gameplan as they did in their previous meeting with the Orange -- close, defensive first half followed by an aggressive, offensive charged burst in the second to cruise to their fourth-straight championship game.
In one of its most dominating performances of the season, the Wildcats shut down Syracuse in the second half, as the Orange did not get their first shot of the half until three minutes remaining. By that time, the damage had been done, thanks to nine unanswered goals by the `Cats, including four from Bowen.
Syracuse would strike first in the opening minutes to take a 1-0 lead, but was quickly answered by a pair of goals from junior Meredith Frank (Westwood, Mass./Westwood), putting NU on top 2-1 with eight minutes gone.
For the remaining 15 minutes of the opening stanza, the `Cats and `Cuse would exchange goals, with Bowen tallying her first two of the game for the Wildcats. Sophomores Katrina Dowd (Yorktown Heights, N.Y./Yorktown) and Danielle Spencer (Rochester, N.Y./Rochester) and junior Casey Donohoe (Jarrettsville, Md./Notre Dame) would also beat Syracuse goalkeeper Liz Hogan to give NU the halftime edge.
Flashback to March 24 in the first meeting between the two teams this season: After Syracuse scored early in the second half tie the game at five, the Wildcats would reel off the next ten goals to break the game open. Fast forward back to Friday night and you would again find Northwestern scoring the first nine goals of the second half, breaking out to a 16-6 lead they would never relinquish.
Along with the four from Bowen, Spencer and Donohoe would each add a pair of goals of their own, while Frank would net her third of the game, ensuring that the Orange's first-ever trip to the national semifinals would be a short one.
Junior Hannah Nielsen (Adelaide, Australia/Brighton Secondary) continued to do what she does best, dishing out four assists, while the defensive tandem of senior Christy Finch (Hudson, Ohio/Hudson) and Maggie Bremer (Upper Arlington, Ohio/Upper Arlington) shut down Syracuse's Katie Rowan for the second straight meeting. Rowan, the nation's leading scorer, was held to no goals, no assists, and only three shots combined in the two games against the `Cats this season.
"It wasn't just me, it was our entire defense," said Bremer of the shut-down of Rowan. "What it comes down to is hard work, talking, just giving it your all and trying your very hardest. We knew we would have to shut her down, and we did."
Northwestern continues its dominant run in the month of May, winning its 15th-consecutive NCAA tournament game and improving to 16-1 all-time in the tournament under head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. Her .941 winning percentage in the NCAA championships is the highest in tournament history.
The victory puts Northwestern in the NCAA championship game for the fourth-straight season, as the Wildcats will face Penn, a 9-8 overtime winner vs. Duke, at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 25, at Johnny Unitas Stadium, a game televised nationally on CBS College Sports Network. Fans unable to make the trip to Towson can be part of a championship watch party Sunday night at Tommy Nevin's (1450 Sherman Ave.) in Evanston. The party is open to any Wildcat fans and those with a WildCard will receive a 10 percent discount.