Lacrosse: 36-game winning streak ends in 11-7 loss to Penn

Jimmy Mitchell

Going into Sunday’s matchup against No. 5 Penn, Northwestern had won 36 consecutive games – nearly two seasons of complete dominance.

The winning streak was the best in program history. Now that streak is over after the Wildcats’ 11-7 loss to the Quakers on Sunday at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Pa.

Two of the 36 victories had come against Penn (13-1), including a 12-2 thrashing in the 2007 NCAA semifinals that Penn clearly had not forgotten.

“They’ve been talking all week about how they’ve been wanting to bring us down,” junior midfielder Hannah Nielsen said. “And they did it. They were coming out gunning for us today. They played a great game.”

Early on, it appeared the Cats (15-1) would continue their domination over the Quakers. Junior midfielder Meredith Frank scored two goals and sophomore midfielder Danielle Spencer had one of her own to give NU an early 3-1 lead.

After Penn evened the game at four, NU went on a three-goal run, powered by another goal from Frank and two from junior midfielder Hilary Bowen, the team’s scoring leader.

But Penn seemed to gain some momentum, as goalie Sarah Waxman made a pair of crucial saves in the final two minutes. An Allison Ambrozy goal with 37 seconds remaining in the period cut NU’s lead to 7-5 going into halftime.

“It wasn’t surprising,” freshman midfielder Brooke Matthews said of the Cats’ lapse. “We didn’t play our best.”

The Quakers’ success at the end of the first half translated into complete domination over the Cats in the second half. Penn collected three early goals to take an 8-7 lead only three and a half minutes into the period.

The Quakers, who would score three more goals, controlled possession for the majority of the second half, not allowing the Cats to score. It was the first time since 2005 that the team had been scoreless for an entire half.

Penn won five of the seven draw controls in the second half. The Cats were whistled for 21 penalties, effectively limiting any chance for a comeback, while Penn committed only five fouls in the period.

“They won all the draw controls, and they got all the groundballs,” Nielsen said. “They were going a lot harder than we were. When the ball was on the ground, they were hungrier to get it.”

NU will still enter the American Lacrosse Conference Championship this weekend at Lakeside Field as the No. 1 seed despite the disappointing non-conference loss.

“I guess it was a good lesson, but not the best timing,” Matthews said. “But now we’ll just be even more pumped during the ALC tournament and for the NCAAs.”

Nevertheless, a win Sunday would have earned the Cats their second undefeated regular season in four years.

“We heard what (Penn) was saying all week,” Nielsen said. “We were looking to play our best to get back at them for what they were saying. But they really came in gunning for us today, and they were more motivated from the start.

“I think we may have underestimated them a little bit.”

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