EVANSTON, Ill. -- Two familiar conference foes, No. 2 Northwestern and No. 7 Penn State, are also two of eight teams still standing in the 2013 NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship and will square off Saturday in Evanston with a trip to the national semifinals on the line. The Wildcats will be trying to knock off Penn State for the third time this season and to secure a berth in the semifinals for the ninth consecutive year.
The game will be carried live to a national audience on the Big Ten Network, with veteran play-by-play announcer Mike Wolf joining 2005 Northwestern Lacrosse alum Ashley Gersuk on the call from Lakeside Field.
Tickets to the final women's lacrosse game at Lakeside Field this season may be purchased at the venue's ticket booth for $8 (adults), $5 (senior citizens, students and youth) and $1 (infants). Once again, all Northwestern students will be admitted at no charge upon presentation of a valid WildCard, courtesy of Northwestern head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller.
The Last Meeting
No. 8 Penn State
May 3, 2013
NU Advances to ALC Title Game With OT Win vs. Penn State
After leading for nearly all of its American Lacrosse Conference Tournament semifinal showdown with No. 8 Penn State, No. 4 Northwestern nearly saw its hopes for a return to the tournament title game evaporate as the Nittany Lions had a chance to break an 8-8 tie in the final minute of regulation.
All She Does Is Win
In leading the Wildcats to a record-tying eight consecutive appearances in the NCAA championship game and an opening-round win last week, Kelly Amonte Hiller has raised her career record in the NCAA Tournament to 33-2--surpassing her mentor Cindy Timchal as the winningest postseason coach in women's lacrosse history in terms of both wins and winning percentage (.943). An eighth national championship for Amonte Hiller this spring would tie her with Timchal for most all time in women's lacrosse and tied for the eighth-most ever in a Division I women's team sport.
Below are a few other postseason trends the Wildcats have maintained during their championship dynasty:
Northwestern is the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season.
NU is riding a nine-game postseason winning streak dating to the start of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, which is the fourth-longest streak in NCAA Women's Lacrosse Tournament history. The Wildcats set the all-time record by winning 23 in a row during its run of five straight titles, topping the 21 straight won by Maryland from 1995-2002.
Northwestern is 18-0 all-time in NCAA Tournament home games under the leadership of Kelly Amonte Hiller.
A potential ninth consecutive trip to the national semifinals stands second all-time behind Maryland's 12 in a row from 1990-2001.
Scouting the Nittany Lions
NCAA Quarterfinals Preview
Rarely in its history has Northwestern been tasked with beating an opponent three times in one season, but that is the goal when NU hosts Penn State in the NCAA quarterfinals. Northwestern has won 16 straight against the Nittany Lions dating to 2004 and leads the all-time series, 17-4.
The Wildcats put together one of their best all-around efforts of the year against the Nittany Lions back on April 5, an 11-3 victory in which leading PSU attackers Tatum Coffey and Kelly Lechner each were held to one goal on one shot by the Wildcats defense. A few weeks later in Baltimore, the two teams met in a much more balanced affair that saw PSU win the second half by a score of 3-1 to force Northwestern into its only overtime game of the year. The 'Cats forced a turnover on PSU's final possession of regulation, however, and senior Amanda Macaluso wrapped the crease late in the first OT period to put NU on top. Senior Gabriella Flibotte also shined in the game, collecting a career-best seven draw controls from her spot off the circle.
Penn State's ensuing game was another squeaker, with PSU outlasting a resilient Canisius squad, 14-13, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Missy Doherty, PSU head coach and a former college roommate of Kelly Amonte Hiller, then guided her team past a tough UMass squad, 12-9, to advance to the quarterfinals.
With dominant all-around performances by senior Taylor Thornton and junior Alyssa Leonard, two-time defending NCAA champion Northwestern pulled away from Stanford to post a 15-8 victory in the Wildcats' 2013 NCAA Championship debut Sunday at Lakeside Field. Thornton and Leonard each finished with four points on three goals and one assist, with Leonard also winning eight draw controls to lead NU to an 18-6 advantage in the circle for the afternoon. Seven total Wildcats found the back of the net Sunday, with Ali Cassera matching Thornton and Leonard's hat tricks while junior Kate Macdonald and freshman Nancy Dunbar each recorded the first two-goal games of their respective careers.
Thornton Up For National Honors from Sports Illustrated
Northwestern senior standout Taylor Thornton has been named one of five female finalists for Sports Illustrated's College Athlete of the Year honor, the outlet announced last week. After profiling each of five finalists on both the men's and women's sides, Sports Illustrated and SI.com will select one male and female winner who best embodies excellent achievement on the field and in the classroom, good sportsmanship and commitment to the community. The four-time IWLCA All-American and 2012 Honda Sports Award winner has recently moved into third place on the school's career lists for both caused turnovers (99) and ground balls (172), needing 11 ground balls to match Christy Finch's all-time record of 183. Additionally, Thornton stands seventh in career draw controls (193) and could conceivably climb has high as third with a strong finish on the circle in the postseason.
Postseason accolades have been rolling in for the Wildcats this month, beginning with All-American Lacrosse Conference and All-West/Midwest Region laurels prior to the NCAA Tournament. On Wednesday, the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) announced the 48 Division I players to earn All-America status for the 2013 campaign, including four NU representatives: first-team selections Taylor Thornton and Erin Fitzgerald, second-team honoree Gabriella Flibotte and third-team choice Bridget Bianco, one of four goalkeepers in the country to be named an All-American this season. Thornton joined an elite club with her selection, joining Kristen Kjellman as the only Wildcats to earn All-America honors all four years of their careers.
Macdonald Makes Her Mark
Junior defender Kate Macdonald has made a big impact since earning a starting role on defense midway through the season after playing sparingly as a freshman and sophomore. Macdonald ranks third on the squad with 28 ground balls and is coming off a career game against Stanford in which she notched her first-ever two-goal game, added an assist, and matched a career-best with four ground balls and two caused turnovers.
She's The Top
Already Northwestern's career leader in draw Not yet through her junior season as a Wildcat, Alyssa Leonard now boasts every major school record related to draw controls after last week surpassing Danielle Spencer's single-season mark of 110 established in 2010. Leonard, already NU's career leader with 301 draw controls, stands at 120 after recording eight against Stanford Sunday, placing. The previous NCAA single-season record of 126 set by Maryland's Dana Dobbie in 2008 has already fallen this year, with Robert Morris freshman Jessica Karwacki recording a stunning 152 in 16 games with the Colonials this season. Leonard's 301 career draws rank fourth all-time in Division I, with current NU assistant coach Hillary Fratzke (327) representing the next target within Leonard's reach.
With their 7 p.m. CT start on Saturday, Northwestern and Penn State will be playing for the fourth and final spot in the NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship national semifinals. The other three participants on championship weekend will be decided earlier in the day when No. 1 Maryland hosts Duke (11 a.m. CT), No. 3 North Carolina faces Virginia (Noon CT) and fourth-ranked Syracuse hosts No. 5 Florida in the Carrier Dome (1 p.m. CT). This weekend's winners will convene at Villanova Stadium in Philadelphia for the semifinals on Friday, May 24 (ESPN3) and again for the national championship game on Sunday, May 26 (ESPNU). For more information, visit the official home of the NCAA Championship at NCAA.com.