BREAKING NEWS – NU makes Dartmouth green, looks for NCAA title against Virginia

Nina Mandell

Women’s Lacrosse

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — With 1:33 left in the game goalkeeper Ashley Gersuk made it look easy.

The senior blocked a shot by Dartmouth’s Katieanne Christian, and as she threw the ball out to her teammates, the cheers that came after the save never died.

No. 1 Northwestern (20-0) is going to play for the national championship.

If the Wildcats win, it will be the first national championship for NU since men’s fencing won a title in 1941.

It will be NU coach Kelly Amonte Hiller’s fifth trip to the finals, but her first as a coach.

And she doesn’t care that it’s never been done in the Midwest or by a NU team in 64 years.

“This is our new tradition, this is our new program,” Amonte Hiller said.

After an 8-4 win over the fourth-seeded Big Green on Friday, the Cats now get set to face sixth-seeded Virginia (17-4) at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

The Cavaliers, the defending national champions, defeated Duke 15-12 Friday to get into the final round.

With the Cats’ offense scoring well below their average of 15.8 goals per game against Dartmouth,NU had to depend on its defense for the second straight game in the tournament.

Senior Ashley Koester shut down Dartmouth leading scorer, Christian, holding her to two goals.

After NU controlled possession through most of the first half, Dartmouth avoided its first scoreless half of the season by getting a goal less than three seconds before halftime.

But the Big Green was still held to its lowest scoring game of the season, putting up nine goals fewer than the team’s average. And to beat the Cavaliers, the Cats will have to keep up the good defense against 2005 Women’s World Cup Training Team member Amy Appelt.

Amonte Hiller said that with the nation’s top defense on her side, it won’t be a problem.

“We’ve got two Koesters, and a Fino and a Lovett to back them up,” said Amonte Hiller, referring to defenders Ashley and Courtney Koester, Lindsay Finocchiaro and Emily Lovett.

Midfielder Sarah Albrecht had three goals against Dartmouth, leading the Cats in scoring for the second game in a row.

The captain is fifth in scoring on NU, but as defenses concentrate on high scorers Lindsey Munday, Kristen Kjellman and Aly Josephs, the senior has been finding more looks at the goal in the tournament.

“(Albrecht) has really come out in the last couple of games,” Amonte Hiller said. “It just shows her true athleticism, her true quickness.”

Munday got the first two goals of the match, followed by goals from Albrecht and Kjellman. The Cats were leading 4-0 when Dartmouth thwarted the first-half shutout with a goal three seconds before halftime.

Albrecht responded with her second goal in the first minute of the second half and grabbed another tally less than five minutes later. Christy Finch scored her seventh goal of the season before Dartmouth put in its third. Kjellman rounded out NU scoring with 2:10 remaining in the game.

Christian got the last word with her second goal of the game, but the last-ditch effort couldn’t make up for what Dartmouth coach Amy Patton blamed on a loss of basics and lack of footing in the slippery field conditions.

“If Dartmouth could have thrown and caught the ball better, it could have been a different game,” she said.

But with the help of their screw-in cleats, the Cats will be heading to the finals.

“I think it’s just an indescribable feeling, having all this support from the Northwestern community,” Albrecht said. “It’s hard to put into words how you feel, especially when you come in and in four years you build a program to what it’s become.”

Reach Nina Mandell at [email protected]