Lacrosse: Razzle-dazzle offense on display

Matt Forman

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There is only one way to describe three of Northwestern’s goals in its thrashing of Princeton on Saturday: SportsCenter Top Play.

Wildcat midfielders Hannah Nielsen, Casey Donohoe and Brooke Matthews turned in Harlem Globetrotters-esque tallies in the 18-11 win.

With less than five minutes to play in the opening half, Donohoe took a page out of Michael Jordan’s playbook. As Nielsen drove down the right side towards the net, two Princeton defenders picked her up. Donohoe cut across the arc, accepted a pass from Nielsen while off-balance and whipped a shot behind her back over the shoulder of Tigers goalie Erin Tochihara.

“That’s her average shot at practice,” Nielsen said. “She fools with it everyday. When everyone else is getting drinks, she’s doing stuff like that around the goal. It was the perfect shot for that situation.”

A week ago, Nielsen scored in similar fashion against Notre Dame.

Donohoe, who recorded one of three NU hat tricks on the day, said she was taking advantage of a hole in the Princeton defense.

“It’s not that we were trying to be flashy, it’s just taking what the defense gives you,” Donohoe said. “If you’ve got to throw up a between-the-legs or behind-the-back because that’s what the defense is giving you, so be it. That’s what our team is good at – adjusting.”

One play that did not need adjusting was a coast-to-coast tally by Matthews. After gaining possession deep inside Cats’ territory, Matthews took off from the restraining line. She blew past four Tigers before entering the Princeton zone, dodged two defenders at the arc and fired just inside the left post.

“I was just trying to go hard and be a threat,” Matthews said. “I went end to end as hard as I could.”

While Donohoe and Matthews dazzled the crowd at Lakeside Field, both agreed that their goals were not as impressive as Nielsen’s.

“It was so awesome,” Donohoe said. “It was a lot better than mine. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

With the Cats controlling possession, coach Kelly Amonte Hiller signaled from the sidelines for a set play. Nielsen held the ball along the right side and then drove toward the middle of the field as Hilary Bowen came cutting behind for the misdirection handoff.

Nielsen fake-flipped the ball out of her pocket to Bowen, who ran right at the goal. To the dismay of Tochihara and Tigers’ fans alike, Nielsen still had the ball as she rolled past the defense. Before anyone could react, Nielsen ripped her 48th goal of the season.

“The defender thought I had it and she came right up on me,” Bowen said. “I saw the goalie followed me, so I did a shot fake. Then I saw the ball in goal behind the net. It was awesome.”

Even Nielsen said she “had never fooled a goalie like that before” on the Statue-of-Liberty, now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t play.

The junior provided Tewaaraton Award selection committee members with her most memorable play of the season.

And with highlight reel plays in consecutive weeks, even her teammates are eagerly awaiting Nielsen’s next trick play.

“Behind-the-back and between-the-legs?” Bowen asked.

To find out, keep watching.

“I’m thinking about it,” Nielsen said. “You’ll just have to wait and see. Wait and see until Friday.”

——–View photos from this weekend’s sports events here.