May 25, 2012
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NCAA Tournament -- Semifinals
Site: Stony Brook, N.Y. (Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium)
Score: No. 2 Northwestern 9, No. 3 Maryland 7
Records: NU (20-2, 4-1 ALC), Maryland (19-4, 3-2 ACC)
Next NU Event: NCAA Championship Game vs. No. 4 Syracuse Sunday, May 27 Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium Stony Brook, N.Y.
2012 Northwestern Women's Lacrosse Statistics (PDF)
STONY BROOK, N.Y. -- As it has every year since 2005, six-time national champion Northwestern women's lacrosse will spend Memorial Day weekend competing for the NCAA championship thanks to a dazzling 9-7 semifinal victory over No. 3 Maryland Friday night in Stony Brook, N.Y.
The Wildcats, who have now tied Maryland's NCAA Division I women's lacrosse record with eight consecutive appearances in the national championship game, rallied from a two-goal deficit early in the second half thanks to a 5-1 scoring run to close the game and a 7-1 advantage on draw controls after halftime.
Northwestern will face fourth-seeded Syracuse in the championship game at 7 p.m. CT Sunday (ESPNU) after the Orange earned its first-ever trip to the title contest with a 14-13 sudden-victory upset of top-ranked Florida. NU topped Syracuse in overtime, 11-9, when the teams met back on Feb. 29 in the Carrier Dome. Be sure to join fellow Wildcat fans for the official championship game watch party at Buffalo Wild Wings in Evanston (1741 Maple Ave.).
"We're extremely excited about the win tonight against a phenomenal Maryland team," said head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, who with the win surpassed her former mentor Cindy Timchal for most career victories in the NCAA Tournament. "Our girls played with a lot of heart and poise and they didn't get down when we were down. I couldn't be more excited to be in another championship game."
Senior attacker Shannon Smith picked apart the Terrapin defense to the tune of four assists -- one off her career high -- while senior goalkeeper Brianne LoManto made five critical saves, nearly all of them at point-blank range on the crease.
"As much as you want to, you can't make every save," LoManto said. "You have to stay patient and be positive and know you can make some saves. I tried to make saves at the critical moments and I knew [my teammates] would have my back."
Junior Taylor Thornton once again did it all for NU, blanketing fellow Tewaaraton Award finalist Katie Schwarzmann on defense while adding seven draw controls and two goals. Thornton's efforts helped NU limit the Terps to only 15 shots on the game.
Smith's four points, meanwhile, raise her career total in the NCAA Tournament to 54 (33g, 17a), tying her with her former teammate and current Syracuse assistant coach Katrina Dowd for fourth all-time.
In Friday's rematch of the last two NCAA title games, The Terrapins were the ones to get off to a fast start, scoring only 11 seconds into the game off a scramble on the opening draw control. But Northwestern soon was able to turn defense into offense to level things at one as Gabriella Flibotte knocked the ball from a Terp stick and scooped up the ground ball, taking it to the other end and feeding Jessica Russo. The Port Jefferson native did the rest, deftly spinning through two defenders and finishing a lefty shot under duress for her 15th goal of the season.
Maryland went ahead 2-1, but it was another caused turnover by Christy Turner that returned possession to NU, and the 'Cats capitalized when Smith picked out Alex Frank from behind the cage for Frank's second goal of the season.
After a wraparound goal from behind the crease by Maryland's Kristy Black, Northwestern tied things at three off a well-designed 8-meter restart that saw Smith feed Russo for Russo's second of the day. The Wildcats took their first lead when Erin Fitzgerald converted a free position, only to have Maryland quickly answer on a slick juke move by Schwarzmann.
That Maryland goal at the 15:04 mark of the first half was the last time either team found the back of the net for a span of more than 14 minutes as both defenses clamped down. For NU, it was Frank who twice intercepted passes out of midair to record the 106th and 107th caused turnovers of her remarkable career, the latter of which came when she stepped in front of a Terp waiting all alone on LoManto's crease.
But the Terrapins broke the tie and took a 5-4 lead into halftime thanks to a goal with 39 seconds remaining by Karri Ellen Johnson off a free-position play.
After the intermission, Thornton appeared to draw NU level with a shot from distance to the back of the net, but was whistled for dangerous propelling and a yellow card. Maryland took possession and scored to make it a two-goal swing, seizing a 6-4 lead on the extra-man opportunity.
Northwestern, however, didn't need long to erase the deficit. Smith directed NU's next offensive series and picked out a cutting Kara Mupo, who scored to cut the lead in half. Northwestern then pulled level with a free position goal by Macaluso and, after having a second 8-meter attempt go wide of the target, regained possession by forcing a turnover on the ride. That led to Smith again orchestrating the offense and finding Lacey Vigmostad for her 15th goal of the season, which gave NU its first two-goal cushion of the evening.
Schwarzmann responded for Maryland with a free position tally with 13:37 to play, but the Terps were denied a chance to tie things up when LoManto turned away a point-blank shot off an 8-meter restart. It proved to be one of the last chances Maryland would have as Northwestern dominated possession in the final 10 minutes, working the clock and avoiding Maryland's attempts to turn the Wildcats over.
Thornton, who was instrumental in NU's ability to maintain possession down the stretch, added a final open-net free position goal with just under 90 seconds remaining to ice the win.
"Syracuse is a thrilling team, Gary [Gait] has done a great job with them," Amonte Hiller said of NU's final opponent, which overcame a 12-5 second-half deficit to defeat Florida. "They're an explosive team when they need to be and we're going to have to play great team defense and the same on offense. We struggled on draw controls last time we played them so that will be a huge factor."
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