Lacrosse: Wildcats’ win streak reaches 32

Brian Chappatta

Northwestern’s transition to life without four-year starter Morgan Lathrop in goal wasn’t supposed to be easy. Sophomore netminder Brianne LoManto struggled in her first career complete game, but the Wildcats’ offense bailed her out with 35 goals in two weekend wins out west.

For the 31st and 32nd straight time, NU withstood the barrage, leaving The Golden State with an 18-11 win against No. 15 Stanford on Friday and a 17-3 victory over California on Sunday. The 32-game winning streak is the second-longest in school history.

The match against the Cardinal was the first time the Cats have taken on a ranked foe this season. Stanford kept the contest close, tying the game 10-10 four minutes into the second half. But NU finished on an 8-1 tear.

“It was a good experience for some of our younger players and players who are a little less experienced, like myself, to be put in a battle like that,” LoManto said. “For us to be able to pull through, fight back and never give up is really important, especially this season since we have so many younger players.”

After splitting time in goal in the season opener against Massachusetts, LoManto guarded the net for all 60 minutes in the win over Stanford. It was the first time in her NU career she played a complete game.

LoManto found out an hour before the Stanford contest that she was going to start, but she had no indication she would be going the distance. She said the ability to make adjustments in the second half proved valuable for her growth as a goalkeeper.

“It was definitely a change in pace going out and playing the whole game, but experience is a big thing that needs to come in the goalkeeping experience,” LoManto said. “It was good to get out there and play a full game. It was good to be able to pick it up in the second half and get it going.”

LoManto earned another start in the game against the Golden Bears, but she was taken out­­ about 10 minutes into the second half. The Cats had firm control of the game by halftime thanks to a 12-0 outburst that spanned 20 minutes of the first half.

Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said the lack of patience on offense was a problem against Stanford, allowing the Cardinal to hang around in the first half. Starting in the second stanza, NU settled in and maintained possession long enough to get better looks.

“The girls had to be patient and stay calm and not really get frustrated with the situation, but just to get after it and play together and try to wear the other team down,” Amonte Hiller said. “They did that in the second half and took that into Sunday’s game as well.”

Senior attacker Katrina Dowd saw her first action of the season over the weekend and picked up where she left off. Dowd, the Cats’ top scorer in 2009, led the team with five goals in each contest.

With Dowd out in the season opener, sophomore attacker Shannon Smith stepped up and notched six goals. She still found chances to score with Dowd back in action, as she racked up a combined eight goals in the two weekend games. Together Smith and Dowd accounted for at least half of NU’s output in both matches.

“I’m feeling really comfortable out there on the field,” Smith said. “I still have things to work on and improve on, and that’s what I love about it. I love the challenge of improving.”

One area in which the Cats are looking to improve is draw controls. NU narrowly beat out Stanford in that department, 17-14, and lost out to California 12-10. The players were disappointed in their performance, especially since the draw is a focal point of their training. Sophomore Alex Frank, NU’s leader on draws, was injured and did not play in either contest.

“A lot of times the ball goes up in the air, and we’re all going for that, and no one is ready for when the ball hits the ground,” senior attacker Danielle Spencer said. “We have to be ready for those ground balls. If we can anticipate those ground balls a little more, we should be ready for Georgetown.”[email protected]