Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Lacrosse: 1st half blunders, 2nd half wonders

Of all teams to give No. 1 Northwestern a scare, No. 14 Ohio State was one of the more unlikely candidates.

In their last four meetings, the Wildcats outscored the Buckeyes by a 76-19 margin and never allowed more than five goals in a game. The game was also played at Lakeside Field, where NU had won a record 50 in a row entering Wednesday night, making an upset bid even more improbable.

Yet the two teams found themselves deadlocked after 30 minutes, the first time all season the Cats did not lead at the break.

“Our first half was awful – I mean, it was gross,” junior attacker Danielle Spencer said. “We let them in, and we can’t do that against a good team. We were really close to throwing the game away.”

Despite playing its worst half this year – and not receiving a goal from senior midfielder Hannah Nielsen for the first time in 21 games – NU still managed to win by a comfortable 18-10 margin.

The final score is not indicative of how close the opening period was – then again, it also does not do justice to how dominating the Cats (16-0, 4-0 ALC) were after intermission.

“What we did in the first half and what we did in the second half – it was two different teams,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said.

An uncharacteristically high number of turnovers did not make it easy for NU in the early going.

The Cats committed five miscues in their first six possessions, and they recorded 14 turnovers by halftime, many of them unforced.

NU’s poor concentration had a lot to do with the sloppy start.

“It was a lack of focus,” junior midfielder Katrina Dowd said. “We didn’t come out and stick to our game plan. We were making turnovers that weren’t like us.”

After the Cats jumped out to a 3-1 lead seven minutes in, the Buckeyes (11-5, 2-2) went on a roll. They scored four straight goals, three of which came off of turnovers.

But those mistakes were not the only issue the Cats had to overcome.

With about 11 minutes to go in the first half, NU committed its 18th foul of the contest – six times as many as Ohio State had been called for to that point. The Cats’ fatigue from their two-game weekend was a main factor in their early defensive struggles.

“Sometimes when we’re tired, instead of playing good body defense and moving our feet, we start to swing our sticks, we start to plant our feet and go for crazy checks,” Spencer said.

The fouls eventually started to even out, and NU took a 7-6 lead with under a minute left before halftime. But an offensive foul with 12 seconds remaining gave Ohio State just enough time to knot the score at seven on a goal by Kelly Haggerty. The Buckeyes held a 19-13 edge in shots and five turnovers at halftime.

The Cats received a tongue-lashing during the break, and they responded just like their coach had hoped.

“I asked individuals to step up, and they really did,” Amonte Hiller said.

NU took control after trading goals during the first three minutes of the second half.

Goals by freshmen Jessica Russo and Shannon Smith and sophomore Brooke Matthews within two minutes of one another put the Cats ahead for good.

“Once we started to gain momentum, we had no problem scoring goals,” said Spencer, who found the back of the net five times. “But that took every player on the field stepping up, everyone being confident and everyone wanting to do those little things.”

Dowd continued her hot play, tallying four goals and three assists.

The junior averaged two goals per game in her first 11 games this season. She has doubled that output in her last five contests.

“I’m definitely trying to take it up to another level,” Dowd said. “(Hilary Bowen) has been helping me out, and I credit her. She’s been on the sidelines giving me advice. We need a goal-scorer, and I’m just there to put the ball away, do whatever I can.”

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Lacrosse: 1st half blunders, 2nd half wonders