EVANSTON, Ill. -- After an 11-day layoff from competition, fourth-ranked Northwestern returns to Lakeside Field with an important conference tilt vs. Ohio State at 5:30 p.m. CT Wednesday. The game is the first of two straight NU contests to be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network.
Tickets to all Northwestern Lacrosse home games may be purchased at the entrance to Lakeside Field for $7 (adults), $4 (senior citizens and youths) or $3 for large groups. Parking is free for all fans.
Following the 'Cats
Be sure to tune in as the Big Ten Network carries Wednesday evening's matchup live to a national television audience, with BTN's Mike Wolf handling play-by-play duties and Kara Lentz providing color analysis. Fans can supplement their viewing with live in-game updates via the @NU_SportsLIVE account on Twitter or Gametracker (linked above).
Scouting the Buckeyes 2013 Season: 3-5 (0-1 ALC), NR 2012 Postseason: None Head Coach:Alexis Venechanos (Maryland, '03); 24-18 at Ohio State (third season); 60-56 overall
Key Players: Jackie Cifarelli (So., A): 23 assists, 33 points; Katie Chase (Jr., A): 39 draw controls, 21 goals; Tayler Kuzma (Jr., D): 16 ground balls, 12 caused turnovers In the Cage: Tori DeScenza (So., GK): .394 save pct., 10.9 GAA, 54 saves Series History: NU leads, 9-2 Last Meeting: Northwestern 13, Ohio State 12 (OT); Foxborough, Mass. (March 31, 2012)
Two long-time American Lacrosse Conference foes meet Wednesday evening with Northwestern aiming to post its 10th consecutive win in the series against Ohio State. NU managed to keep that streak alive in 2012 thanks to a dramatic second-half comeback, defeating OSU by a 13-12 overtime decision after trailing 11-7 with 15 minutes to play. The game, which was played at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., saw Taylor Thornton dominate with nine draw controls while Erin Fitzgerald pushed the game into overtime by scoring with 19 seconds left in regulation.
Wednesday's matchup marks the third time this season that Kelly Amonte Hiller will square off against a former member of her coaching staff who has gone on to become a head coach at the Division I level. On Feb. 8, Amonte Hiller stood opposite Lindsey Munday as Munday made her coaching debut with the USC Trojans, and on March 6 she defeated former assistant Acacia Walker, now in her first year heading up Boston College's program. Wednesday also means a return to Evanston for Buckeyes assistant Christy Finch, a four-time national champion, two-time All-American and an IWLCA Defender of the Year for Amonte Hiller and the Wildcats from 2005-08.
The Buckeyes are enduring a difficult stretch in their schedule, with this week's road trip to Evanston coming on the heels of a visit to another challenging road opponent, one that ended in a 13-7 loss to No. 2 Florida. OSU and Northwestern share one common opponent at this point in the season, with both teams recording relatively comfortable seven-goal wins over Boston College.
A Look Around the ALC
Now in its 12th year of existence, the American Lacrosse Conference is once again one of the most challenging conferences from top to bottom in Division I women's lacrosse. To date, Northwestern (2-0) and Vanderbilt (0-2) are the only two schools in the ALC to have played more than conference game this season, with Penn State and defending league champion Florida each sitting at 1-0 in conference play. The Gators (13-0), who Northwestern will face on Saturday, April 20, in Gainesville, have completed the nonconference portion of their schedule this year and have only their four remaining ALC contests left on their regular-season slate.
At Home Behind the Cage
Northwestern has seen some of the nation's top behind-the-cage feeders come through its program, including 2012 graduate Shannon Smith (108 career assists). Freshman Christina Esposito has begun assuming that role for the 'Cats in recent games and currently leads NU with eight helpers this season. Esposito notched back-to-back games of three points on one goal and two assists against Boston College and Johns Hopkins before topping that with a career-best effort of three assists and four points at Navy, earning ALC Freshman of the Week honors along the way.
Pick Your Poison
Northwestern's offense has been firing on all cylinders since the opening draw of the 2013 season, ranking third nationally with 15.4 goals per game. NU has been spreading the wealth on attack and now has four players with at least 15 points and six in double figures, led by Erin Fitzgerald's 28 goals and 31 points. Upperclassmen Alyssa Leonard (24 points), Amanda Macaluso (20) and Ali Cassera (11) all have needed only eight games to meet or exceed their points total of a year ago, while junior Kelly Rich (10) is just two points shy of that mark.
After scoring only seven goals in Northwestern's first four games of the season, returning first-team All-American Erin Fitzgerald has gone on a tear with 21 goals in her last four outings, including a career-best effort of six goals and seven points in NU's most recent game vs. Harvard. Fitzgerald, the reigning ALC Offensive Player of the Week, has moved her into the top 10 on NU's career goals list, where she stands 10th with 159, one better than Meredith Frank (2006-09). She also is closing in on becoming the 13th member of NU's 200-career points club, needing just 18 more points to reach the plateau.
In addition, Fitzgerald has been putting in significant work as the front line of Northwestern's defensive efforts. In the last two weeks, Fitzgerald has set career single-game highs for caused turnovers (four vs. Boston College) and ground balls (five vs. Harvard).
Bianco Settles In Between the Pipes
Northwestern debuted a new anchor to its defense when it took the field on opening weekend following the graduation of three-year starting goalkeeper Brianne LoManto, who last year ranked in second in the country in goals against average (7.17). Sophomore Bridget Bianco has ably taken over the starting role, ranking sixth in the country with a GAA of just 6.82. She recently completed a run of three straight nine-save performances, including in a win on March 9 vs. Johns Hopkins when she surrendered just five goals in 57 minutes of action.
On the horizon for Northwestern is a marquee matchup and rematch of the 2012 NCAA Championship game, with the Wildcats hosting fifth-ranked Syracuse at 1 p.m. CT Saturday. The two teams met in Stony Brook, N.Y., last May, with NU seeking its seventh NCAA championship and the Orange making their first-ever appearance in the national title game. NU outlasted Syracuse in a hotly contested affair, 8-6, to keep the national championship trophy in Evanston.
On Saturday, Northwestern will be staging a BLACK OUT in the Lakeside Field bleachers to provide an even greater homefield advantage for the 'Cats, with all early-arriving fans receiving a free black Northwestern lacrosse T-shirt.
There's still time to support the seven-time NCAA champion Wildcats through your purchase of season tickets -- visit the NUsports.com ticket page or call the Northwestern ticket office at 888-GO-PURPLE today! Packages are available for $49 for adults, $29 for youths and $99 for family plans (two adult, three youth season tickets) and are the only way to secure a commemorative Northwestern Lacrosse championship banner, courtesy of Northwestern Lacrosse.