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    Seventh NCAA Title Within Reach for Amonte Hiller, Northwestern

    Senior Brianne LoManto had all the answers in the cage for NU against Maryland and will make her final start Sunday with the national title on the line.

    Senior Brianne LoManto had all the answers in the cage for NU against Maryland and will make her final start Sunday with the national title on the line.

    May 26, 2012

    2012 NCAA Tournament -- National Championship Game
    (2) Northwestern (20-2, 4-1 ALC) vs. (4) Syracuse (19-3, 8-0 BIG EAST)
    Sunday, May 27 • 7 p.m. CT
    Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium • Stony Brook, N.Y
    Live Online Stream:
    Live Twitter Updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
    Radio: WNUR 89.3 FM

    EVANSTON, Ill. -- After putting forth arguably its most complete effort of the season in a semifinal win over Maryland, head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller hopes her defending national champion Northwestern women's lacrosse program has saved its best for last. On Sunday night (7 p.m. CT), NU will square off with fourth-ranked and first-time finalist Syracuse at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium in Stony Brook, N.Y., looking to win a remarkable seventh NCAA title in the last eight seasons.



    The Orange represent the sixth different opponent Amonte Hiller and the Wildcats will have faced during their NCAA record-tying streak of eight consecutive appearances in the national title game.

    Following the 'Cats
    Watch the excitement live from Stony Brook by tuning into the ESPNEWS broadcast of the game, or watch the online stream on as Joe Beninati (play-by-play), Courtney Martinez-Connor (analyst) and John Brickley (sideline) provide the call. Fans also can receive live in-game updates by following @NU_SportsLIVE on Twitter.

    Evanston-area fans are encouraged to attend the official championship game watch party hosted by Buffalo Wild Wings (1741 Maple Ave., Evanston) to cheer the 'Cats on to victory.

    'Cats Overcome Terps in NCAA Semis
    A rematch of the last two national championship games played out as evenly as many expected it to, but Northwestern was able to overcome a two-goal deficit in the second half to defeat No. 3 Maryland, 9-7, and earn a spot in its eighth straight title game. Tewaaraton finalist Taylor Thornton showed off her all-around game, collecting seven draw controls and two goals while providing shut-down defense on fellow player of the year candidate Katie Schwarzmann of UMD. Shannon Smith directed the offense and dished out four assists to continue her climb up the list of all-time leading scorers in the NCAA Tournament, while goalkeeper Brianne LoManto came up with five crucial saves to help keep the Terps at bay. NU improved to 8-0 all-time in NCAA semifinal contests while Kelly Amonte Hiller picked up her 31st career coaching victory in the NCAA Tournament, the most all-time in Division I women's lacrosse.

    Scouting the Orange:
    2012: 19-3, 8-0 BIG EAST, 2-0 neutral, No. 4
    Road to the Title Game: W vs. Dartmouth (15-5); W vs. North Carolina (17-16); W vs. Florida (14-13 2OT)
    Head Coach: Gary Gait (Syracuse '90); fifth year at Syracuse (76-26)
    Key Players: Michelle Tumolo (Jr., A): 51g, 43a, 26 ground balls; Alyssa Murray (So., A): 73g, 31a; Kailah Kempney (Fr., A): 36g, 90 draw controls
    In Goal: Alyssa Constantino (So.): 8.39 GAA, .494 save pct.; Kelsey Richardson (Fr.): 9.95 GAA, .483 pct.

    • Syracuse has advanced to its first-ever NCAA championship game in remarkable fashion, coming from behind late in its quarterfinal matchup with North Carolina before storming back from a 12-5 deficit to upset top-ranked Florida in overtime Friday night. SU has lost only once since falling to Northwestern back on Feb. 29, thanks largely to the clutch scoring of Tewaaraton Award finalist Michelle Tumolo (94 points). Alyssa Murray has been the beneficiary of many of Tumolo's 43 assists and has 73 goals, while Kailah Kempney has keyed SU's draw control efforts with 90 on the year. Head coach Gary Gait, who has guided his alma mater to three semifinal appearances in the last five years, has successfully employed a platoon in the cage between sophomore Alyssa Constantino and freshman Kelsey Richardson.

    Series Information
    When these teams last met back on Feb. 29 in the Carrier Dome Northwestern won its ninth straight game in the series with the Orange when it rallied from a 6-2 first-half deficit with a 7-0 scoring run, then held off SU in overtime to claim an 11-9 victory. Shannon Smith delivered five goals for NU while Brianne LoManto notched nine saves in the cage, and Syracuse received three goals and two assists from Tumolo and seven draw controls by Kempney. The two teams have met twice before in the NCAA Tournament, first in the 2007 quarterfinals when the Wildcats claimed a 14-9 victory and again in the 2008 semifinals, when the Wildcats sped to a 16-8 win.

    NU In the Championship Game
    2005: Northwestern 13, Virginia 10
    2006: Northwestern 7, Dartmouth 4
    2007: Northwestern 15, Virginia 13
    2008: Northwestern 10, Penn 6
    2009: Northwestern 21, North Carolina 7
    2010: Maryland 13, Northwestern 11
    2011: Northwestern 8, Maryland 7

    Record: 6-1
    Average Margin of Victory: 4.5 goals per game

    Amonte Hiller to Be Inducted to National Lacrosse Hall of Fame
    On Wednesday, May 23, U.S. Lacrosse announced the eight members of the 2012 National Lacrosse Hall of Fame class, a group that includes Northwestern head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. Amonte Hiller is being inducted in honor of her tremendous playing career, which included back-to-back national player of the year awards in 1995-96, two NCAA championships at Maryland and three trips to the Women's World Cup as a leader on the U.S. National Team (1997, 2001, 2005). The entire class -- which also features Amonte Hiller's former coach and mentor at Maryland Cindy Timchal -- will be officially inducted on Saturday, Oct. 20, at a ceremony in Hunt Valley, Md.

    The Way You Draw It Up
    Sophomore draw control specialist Alyssa Leonard has found her groove of late, giving the Wildcats an enormous edge in possession when it matters most. With Leonard in the circle, NU won seven of eight draws in the second half of its 9-7 win over Maryland and finished with a 13-5 edge for the game. The Wildcats opened the NCAA Tournament by winning 15 of 20 draws against Notre Dame, one game after losing the draw battle 18-5 vs. Florida in the ALC Championship game. Leonard, the 2011 ALC Freshman of the Year, now owns the second- and third-most prolific draw control seasons of all-time at NU with 91 last season and 84 in 2012.

    The Best Defense...
    A point of strength all season long, the NU defense has continued to anchor its success throughout the NCAA Tournament, allowing exactly seven goals in each of its three outings thus far. Veterans Alex Frank (36), Lacey Vigmostad (29) and Taylor Thornton (27) all have entered NU's top 10 record list for caused turnovers in a single season, while sophomore Christy Turner has been an emerging star on the defense throughout her first year as a starter. Goalkeeper Brianne LoManto led the nation in goals against average through the end of the regular season and stands at a career-best season average of 7.22.

    Big Stage Debuts
    Nearly a year ago to the day, Kelly Amonte Hiller made news when she gave lightly used freshman Kerri Harrington her first career start on defense, a move that resulted in Harrington holding Maryland's Tewaaraton Award finalist Sarah Mollison without a point for the first time in 68 games. Amonte Hiller made a similar move in NU's semifinal win over the Terrapins Friday, inserting freshman Jess Carroll into the starting lineup for the first time despite Carroll having seen the field in only eight previous games this season. Carroll responded by patrolling the midfield with poise and using her speed to help NU move the ball into the attacking third. NU's quarterfinal win vs. Duke also saw sophomore midfielder Kate Macdonald make her first career start for the Wildcats.

    Coaching Connections
    Connections run deep between the coaching staffs of Northwestern and Syracuse, beginning with SU's Gary Gait having served as an assistant coach to Kelly Amonte Hiller during Amonte Hiller's playing days at the University of Maryland. Gait was an assistant to the Terps throughout their run of seven NCAA titles in the late 1990's. Additionally, former Wildcat All-American and NCAA Championship MVP Katrina Dowd -- who earned the nickname "Miss May" for her prolific postseasons -- is in her first year as an assistant coach for the Orange.

    Big-Game Breezey
    On Sunday, senior goalkeeper Brianne `Breezey' LoManto will close out a stellar Northwestern career as she mans the cage in a national title game for a third consecutive season. The Long Island native owns a career won-loss record of 61-6 and is putting the finishing touches on her finest season to date, one in which she led set a career best with her 7.22 goals against average. LoManto, who made several key saves from point blank range and on fast breaks in NU's championship game win over Maryland in 2011, turned in a similar performance Friday against the Terrapins, recording five clutch saves on the doorstep for NU. She stands fourth all-time at NU with 444 career stops.

    WATCH: Breezey's Big Night Helps 'Cats Reach NCAA Title Game


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