Lacrosse: Towson-bound, Tulsa-downed

Jimmy Mitchell

Two games are all that stand between Northwestern and another national championship.

With a dominant 18-11 victory over No. 8 seed Princeton Saturday, the top-seeded Wildcats earned a spot in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament for the fourth consecutive year.

A packed house at Lakeside Field witnessed a balanced offensive attack lead Cats to the win, as eight different players scored goals. Juniors Hilary Bowen, Hannah Nielsen and Casey Donohoe, and sophomore Katrina Dowd all finished the game with three goals.

“I’m extremely pleased with the way the girls came out today, ” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “We played hard.”

The Cats dominated the game from the opening draw control. Goals from Donohoe, Bowen and Nielsen staked NU to a 3-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.

The Cats maintained at least a three-goal advantage the rest of the way.

“Against a team like (Princeton), it is important to match goals, and if you can get out in front a little bit, it definitely helps,” Amonte Hiller said. “It was all contributed to draw controls.”

NU outdrew Princeton 17-13 Saturday, allowing the team to maintain possession and keep the Princeton on the defensive. The Tigers did not win their first draw control until eight minutes into the game, when the Cats already held a 3-1 advantage.

Two goals from Dowd on spin moves from behind the net and a goal from freshman midfielder Brooke Matthews, who twisted and snaked her way through three Princeton defenders, gave NU a 6-1 lead with 18 minutes remaining in the half. Princeton to cut the lead to 6-3, but five goals in the final seven and a half minutes of the period sent the Cats into halftime with an imposing 11-4 lead.

Even with a seven-goal lead, Amonte Hiller said her team was determined to come out firing after the break.

“Princeton is such a great program, so well coached, we knew that they weren’t going to let down in that second half,” she said. “We really wanted to make sure that we put the pedal to the metal throughout the rest of the game.”

NU did just that. After the Tigers scored on a free position opportunity to open the second half, the Cats rattled off five consecutive goals to increase their lead to 16-5.

Although Princeton finished the game on a 6-2 run, NU’s diverse offensive attack and high-pressure defense kept the Tigers from mounting a serious comeback.

Junior goalkeeper Morgan Lathrop collected seven saves Saturday, and senior defender Christy Finch forced a game-high four turnovers.

“(Lathrop) did a great job,” Hiller said. “Our defense was trying to force them to take bad shots, and Morgan made all the saves. She is such a leader in the cage for the defense.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer also noted the intensity of the Cats’ defense, particularly its senior leader.

“(Finch) has got the quickest hands that I’ve ever seen on a defender,” she said.

Another bright spot for NU was the return of sophomore midfielder Danielle Spencer, who had been sidelined since the ALC tournament final against Vanderbilt on May 4 with a muscle strain.

Not in the starting lineup, Spencer entered the game midway in the first half and recorded a pair of goals.

NU will take on No. 5 seed Syracuse in a semifinal matchup on Friday in Towson, Md.

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