EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern's final road trip of the 2013 regular season brings the Wildcats to South Bend, Ind., for their annual meeting with BIG EAST foe Notre Dame. The fourth-ranked 'Cats and ninth-ranked Fighting Irish will meet for the game's opening draw at 6 p.m. CT Wednesday at Notre Dame's Arlotta Stadium.
A live stream of the game will be available on YouTube via UND.com, and fans also can access live in-game updates by following @NU_SportsLIVE on Twitter.
Three Of A Kind
At 4-1 in league play, Northwestern joined a crowd of three teams atop the final American Lacrosse Conference standings this year. NU, Florida and Penn State each earned a share of the regular-season championship, with the Gators earning the No. 1 seed in the upcoming ALC Tournament by virtue of having the lowest total of goals surrendered in conference play (46). As the tournament's No. 2 seed, Northwestern receives a first-round bye and will face either third-seeded Penn State or sixth-seeded Vanderbilt in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m. CT on Friday, May 4, at Homewood Field in Baltimore. The 'Cats are 11-1 all-time in the six-year history of the ALC Tournament, winning five tournament titles.
Scouting the Fighting Irish/Series Info 2013 Season: 11-3, 5-3 BIG EAST (No. 9 IWLCA) 2012 Postseason: NCAA First Round Head Coach: Christine Halfpenny (Virginia Tech, '99); 24-8 at Notre Dame (second season) Key Players: Jenny Granger (Sr., A): 29 goals, 18 assists; Jaimie Morrison (Sr., A): 23 goals, 18 assists; Margaret Smith (Jr., M): 34 draw controls, 24 caused turnovers, 27 ground balls In the Cage: Ellie Hilling (Sr., GK): 8.9 GAA, .476 save pct. Series History: Northwestern leads, 13-2 Last Meeting: Northwestern 12, Notre Dame 7 (NCAA Tournament First Round, May 12, 2012)
For the first time since 2003, the Wildcats will be playing the Fighting Irish in an outdoor venue in South Bend after playing four straight (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011) in UND's indoor Loftus Sports Center in early-season meetings. The last time NU and Notre Dame took to an outdoor field in South Bend also represents the last win in the series for the Irish, a 13-9 victory over the 'Cats on April 26, 2003, in Moose Krause Stadium. Northwestern's most recent trip to South Bend came in the 2011 season-opener, when a 22-5 advantage on draw controls and a hat trick by then-sophomore Erin Fitzgerald led NU to a 14-11 win over No. 10 Notre Dame.
After opening the season with 10 consecutive wins, Notre Dame is looking to turn around a stretch in which it has dropped three of its last four, all against BIG EAST opponents ranked in the top 20 nationally. The Irish have been close in all three contests, however, losing by a combined seven goals to Loyola (Md.), Syracuse and Connecticut.
Leonard Sets Sights on Single-Season Draws Record
Already Northwestern's career leader in draw controls with 278, junior Alyssa Leonard is now approaching the NU record for most draw controls in a single season. Leonard enters Wednesday's matchup with Notre Dame needing 16 draw controls to match Danielle Spencer's program record of 110 established in 2010. Spencer's 110 draws as a senior rank fourth in the NCAA record books while her fellow assistant coach at NU, Hillary Fratzke, owns the fifth-best single-season total of 107, a figure she achieved in only 17 games as a freshman at Towson in 2006. Maryland's Dana Dobbie set the NCAA single-season record with 126 draw controls in 2008.
Fitzgerald Still Streaking
Senior attacker Erin Fitzgerald has won back-to-back American Lacrosse Conference Offensive Player of the Week awards, and for good reason. Fitzgerald has scored at least one goal in every game this year, in 18 straight dating back to last season and in 47 of her last 48 games, recently reaching the 200-career points plateau and moving past Hannah Nielsen into ninth on Northwestern's career goals list (177). The 2012 IWLCA All-American ranks eighth nationally in goals per game this year with 3.29.
Northwestern's attack has been bolstered in recent games by the play of senior Beatrice Conley, who has started the last five games for NU and racked up five goals and two assists in that stretch. She notched her first career two-goal game against No. 9 Duke and followed that up with another two-goal effort in a win over Stanford. Against Florida Saturday, Conley collected a career-best four ground balls.
Thornton on the Attack
Ever since achieving a single-game career high four goals against Ohio State on March 27, senior Taylor Thornton has kept the hot hand on offense with at least one goal in six consecutive outings -- and doing so efficiently, with 13 goals on 18 shot attempts. The Dallas native, who has started all 83 games of her Wildcats career, now has at least 20 goals in back-to-back seasons and a total of 73 for her career.
Next up after NU's trip to South Bend is the 2013 regular-season finale when the Wildcats will host Penn at Lakeside Field on Saturday, April 27 (1 p.m. CT). NU also will recognize the seven graduating seniors playing their final regular season game at their home stadium, where the class of 2013 has compiled a 37-2 record during their time in Evanston.