Lacrosse: Northwestern tops Notre Dame for record 37th straight win

Brian Chappatta

Northwestern’s top-ranked lacrosse team defeated No. 14 Notre Dame 15-5 in Evanston.

No. 1 Northwestern’s goal against No. 14 Notre Dame was to play 60 minutes of good lacrosse.

On the surface, the Wildcats’ 15-5 victory over the Fighting Irish would seem to indicate NU achieved its target. But the Cats were concerned with a number beyond the final score-turnovers.

NU (8-0, 1-0 ALC) lost the ball 24 times in the win over Notre Dame (5-3), which ties its season high from Syracuse. Though the Cats scored the first six goals of the game and their lead was never in jeopardy, coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said the sloppy play needs to be corrected quickly.

“We had some good moments and some bad moments,” Amonte Hiller said. “We have to clean up our play. We have to play more crisp, more sharp, and eliminate the turnovers. Eliminate them.”

NU controlled the tempo early, patiently passing the ball around the fan and taking more than three minutes off the clock before scoring a goal. The Cats then rattled off two more in the next three minutes as part of a 6-0 start. Shaylyn Blaney finally put Notre Dame on the board after 20 minutes of play, and the Irish went into the half down 9-2.

Goalie Brianne LoManto went unchallenged in the opening minutes of the game thanks to NU’s pressing defense. But when the Fighting Irish started to get shots on goal in the later part of the half, the sophomore shut them down. Last week’s ALC Defensive Player of the Week had four straight saves-including a few from point-blank range-to keep the Cats firmly in control.

“I’m getting a lot of confidence from my teammates, they’ve been so supportive recently,” LoManto said. “I always feel like the first save is the hardest. Once I get the first save I can relax a bit, I can get into my zone.”

She continued her strong play in the second half with seven more saves, finishing with a career-high 11 in the win. One of the positives Amonte Hiller took from the game was the continued growth of her goalkeeper.

But the Cats will need to maintain the ball for LoManto’s saves to turn into goals on the other end of the field.

“Every time we need her she’s there and she’s solid and she makes big saves,” Amonte Hiller said. “If she can keep playing like that, it gives the team a huge boost. Now we just need to clean it up so we don’t turn the ball over immediately after she makes those big saves.”

Senior Danielle Spencer and sophomore Shannon Smith scored more than half of the Cats’ goals, tallying four apiece. The attackers were also active in passing around the net-Spencer had three assists and Smith had two.

Spencer said the offense was clicking at times but still has a long way to go. And with nearly half the season in the books, she and Amonte Hiller both realize the development of the young team has to come quicker.

That sense of urgency comes from the upcoming three-game road stretch against No. 5 Duke, No. 6 Pennsylvania and No. 16 Penn State. Spencer said these teams will make NU pay if it turns the ball over as much as it did against Notre Dame.

The Cats’ victory is their 37th in a row, which sets a new mark for longest win streak in program history.

But that’s not what drives the still-unbeaten squad.

“The little things that will motivate us are taking a look at this game and at the goals they scored,” Spencer said. “It’s the things that we do poorly that motivate us more than the things we do well.”[email protected]