NU Edges ‘Cuse, Rolls Over UConn (Women’s Lacrosse)

Wade Askew

By Wade AskewThe Daily Northwestern

When No. 8 Syracuse came to Evanston, most expected to see a game full of offensive fireworks. Instead, they saw a defensive battle in a 10-7 Northwestern win.

Syracuse and No. 1 NU entered the contest as the two highest-scoring teams in the country, each averaging over 15 goals.

But despite the unexpected lack of scoring, NU senior Kristen Kjellman tallied one of the biggest goals of her illustrious career at the end of the first half, when she scored unassisted to break Kate Oleykowski’s 20-year-old school career points record with 290. The goal also gave NU a 5-3 advantage at halftime.

In the second half, another senior All-American took her turn carrying the offense. Aly Josephs netted the first three goals of the half to give NU an 8-3 lead with 21:57 remaining. Josephs scored the goals after limping off the field with a nagging groin injury, but after getting the leg wrapped she returned at apparent full-strength.

Syracuse responded with three straight goals of its own to cut the lead to 8-6 with 10:17 remaining. But the Wildcats took back the momentum, killing the clock while scoring two goals from two sophomores, Meredith Frank and Hannah Nielsen.

Syracuse limited the Cats’ offense by slowing them in transition with exceptional team speed as well as frustrating NU with a compact zone defense.

“They were one of the faster teams I think we’ve played against,” Josephs said. “They were able to keep up with us and step in front of us.”

But Syracuse’s emphasis on dropping back to slow NU down may have ended up working against it. Kjellman said dropping back in transition took away from the Orange’s attack.

NU’s defense held Syracuse’s high-octane offense to a season-low seven goals. Like their Orange counterparts, the Cats’ defense focused on sliding early and aggressively, neutralizing what All-American senior defender Lindsay Finocchiaro said was an athletic attack.

“We wanted to just slow them down and really slide on them early and keep them from shooting,” Finocchiaro said.

Also vital to the Cats’ success was a significant advantage in time of possession, aided by the fact that NU held a 12-7 advantage on draws. That success resulted in NU out-shooting Syracuse, 30-24.

Dominance on draws was equally important two days later in NU’s 22-5 victory over No. 19 Connecticut. A 19-9 advantage on draws fueled a solid transition offense as well as set up an efficient set offense that produced 39 shots to UConn’s 19.

Eleven different players scored at least one point for the Cats. The even distribution was a factor of a motion offense that Amonte Hiller installed after the Syracuse game. The offense was especially effective against UConn’s man-to-man defense.

“That makes a big difference when the team has to worry about everyone,” Amonte Hiller said. “It makes it a lot harder to defend.”

Frank led the way with five goals and sophomore Hilary Bowen added four goals and two assists.

Bowen has been impressive in replacing former All-American and NU career assist record-holder Lindsey Munday, who is now a coach under Amonte Hiller. The lefty has proven to be a natural both dodging and feeding to cutters from behind the goal.

“Just having more experience out there, you feel more comfortable,” Bowen said. “And it’s nice because obviously they’re big shoes to replace, but (Munday) is our assistant coach now, so I have all her feedback – if I ever make a mistake she can tell me what I’m doing wrong or help me improve my game.”

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