Against a first-year Florida team featuring 23 freshmen, No. 2 Northwestern showed what a difference senior leadership makes.
All five members of this year’s senior class recorded a point for the Wildcats on Sunday, as they raced out to a 14-0 lead against the Gators and never looked back, winning 19-5.In honor of Senior Day, coach Kelly Amonte Hiller shuffled the lineup so midfielder Kim Pantages and defenders Maggie Bremer and Sara Harrington could join attackers Danielle Spencer and Katrina Dowd as starters in their final games at Lakeside Field.
“The goal going in was to play for the seniors, and they played really well,” Amonte Hiller said. “They really wanted to play hard and leave it all out there and the (younger) players wanted to play for them as well.”
Eleven different players found the back of the net for NU, including some unfamiliar names. Other than Dowd’s two goals and Spencer’s one, Harrington-a defender throughout her career-made her way into the offensive zone with less than two minutes left in the game.
Harrington tried to go to the goal with multiple defenders on her and held onto the ball as she was fouled. She made the most of her free position opportunity, burying her shot with 1:54 remaining for her first career goal. It was NU’s last score of the contest.
Pantages, who has only seen action in 13 games this season, came out firing, scoring less than a minute into the game to give the Cats a 2-0 lead. She scored again in the second half on a pass from Bremer, which was Bremer’s lone point in the game.
NU led 14-0 at intermission and extended its lead to 15-0 after Dowd found freshman midfielder Erin Fitzgerald just 10 seconds into the second stanza. The Gators matched the Cats in goals for the remainder of the half.
The win culminated the last regular season game for the seniors, but the postseason still remains. Next up is the ALC tournament, and then the NCAA tournament, where the group of five look to become the third class to win a National Championship in all four seasons at NU.
Regardless of what happens in the future, Spencer said the seniors’ efforts in Sunday’s game will be something the group will always remember.
“This could be our last game on this field as seniors, and we wanted to give it everything we had,” Spencer said. “It’s been a great four years for us. Obviously it’s not over, we have loftier goals in mind, but we had a goal for ourselves today for each of us to contribute and do something special in this game. To see each of us get a point was really fun and something special for us to cherish.”[email protected]