Women’s Lacrosse: Still perfect…barely

Jimmy Mitchell

After steamrolling through No. 8 Notre Dame in a 16-2 thrashing last Wednesday, top-ranked Northwestern appeared to be on the verge of an undefeated season and its fourth straight national championship.

The Wildcats’ streak of consecutive victories continued Sunday, as NU (13-0, 3-0 ALC) held on to defeat Penn State (3-9, 0-2) 13-12 at Bigler Field in State College, Pa.

But the Cats’ narrow victory over an ALC cellar-dweller may have brought the team’s status as an unstoppable juggernaut into question.

Though the Cats earned their 34th win in a row, the game revealed a number of weaknesses on NU’s part, said junior midfielder Meredith Frank.

“It was good to come away with the ‘W,’ but we have a lot of things that we need to work on and a lot of things we need to improve upon in order to be successful in future games,” Frank said. “We need to take care of the ball, finish our shots … all around there are a lot of things we need to work on.”

The Cats committed 18 turnovers Sunday, and their atypically sloppy play allowed the Nittany Lions to jump out to an early 3-0 advantage in the first four minutes of regulation.

The three-goal deficit was the largest NU had faced all year.

“They didn’t surprise me,” Frank said of the Nittany Lions. “I don’t think their record reflects their ability, and I think they’re a terrific team. It’s important for us not to overlook anybody. A team’s record really has nothing to do with how hard they play and how hard they’re going to come out against us.”

After cutting Penn State’s lead to 4-2, NU remedied its initially weak play and scored six unanswered goals to take an 8-4 lead. Sophomore midfielder Danielle Spencer led NU’s offensive surge with a pair of goals.

The two teams exchanged points for the final five minutes of the half, and sophomore midfielder Katrina Dowd’s goal with one second left on the clock gave the Cats a 10-6 advantage going into halftime.

Dowd finished the game with a team-leading four goals.

“People like Katrina can step it up one game, and then Hilary (Bowen) another game, and Spencer another game,” said senior defender Christy Finch. “We just have so many options.”

The teams traded three goals apiece to begin the second half, and with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation, NU held a 13-9 advantage.

But Penn State quickly responded with three goals to cut the lead to one, leaving them five minutes to try to tie the game.

“We knew that the way for us to win was to have possession,” Finch said. “We did everything in our power not to foul them or let them get a shot on goal. We tried to press them as much as we could and get the ball to our attackers.”

The Nittany Lions pushed the ball down the field in the game’s final minute, but an interception by junior goalkeeper Morgan Lathrop sealed the Cats’ victory.

Lathrop also recorded two saves during the game’s final minutes to keep NU ahead.

“She did very well,” Finch said. “She really stepped up and came out of the cage a lot to help us out on defense. She was huge for us in helping create turnovers and get possession.”

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