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Lacrosse: NU regains confidence in victory against No. 10 Notre Dame

Jonah L. Rosenblum

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No. 2 Northwestern addressed any fears of a slow start Saturday afternoon, notching the first three goals on its way to a season-opening 14-11 victory over No. 10 Notre Dame.

“We knew coming in that this was going to be a very tough test against a very good team,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “And that’s exactly what it was. It was a good win and a good experience for our young team to get a victory over a top-level team.”

The Wildcats (1-0) also addressed any concerns regarding draw controls in their win over the Fighting Irish. NU dominated draws last season, by a margin of 380-222. And despite losing their two top draw players from last year’s team, the Cats picked up right where they left off, winning 22 draws, compared to just 5 for the Fighting Irish.

“We’re been working on the draws a lot,” senior midfielder Colleen Magarity said. “We have people like Alyssa Leonard, a freshman who is just doing unbelievably at the draws.”

Leonard led NU with six draw controls.

Notre Dame (1-2) had already played two matches heading into Saturday’s affair, but the advantage in experience failed to translate into an advantage on the scoreboard.

After nearly six minutes of scoreless action to begin the game, junior midfielder Jessica Russo broke the ice with her first goal of the season, and NU followed with two quick scores in the next three-and-a-half minutes to take an early 3-0 lead.

Notre Dame fought back to tie the contest at three, but once again, Russo stepped up with a huge goal, and that was followed by two goals in quick succession, to give the Cats a firm lead. A goal by junior attacker Shannon Smith gave the Cats a 7-3 lead with 10:33 remaining in the first half.

Notre Dame would narrow NU’s lead to two goals on several occasions but was unable to draw closer.

After squandering two goals in the last two minutes of the first half, the Cats led just 8-6 at halftime, but came back with the first two goals of the second half. The two teams continued to battle back and forth, with NU clinging onto a 13-11 lead with 7:27 remaining.

Senior midfielder Brooke Matthews gave NU a three-goal lead with five minutes to go, however, and that would mark the final tally of the game as the Cats held the Fighting Irish off the scoreboard for the final 7:27 of the match.

The win marked NU’s 16th consecutive road win, a streak that spans all the way back to April 2008.

“I don’t really think there’s a difference between home and road,” junior attacker Alex Frank said. “The fact that we were undefeated on the road doesn’t really say much except we were playing each game how we wanted to play and we came out successful that way.”

Sophomore attacker Erin Fitzgerald led all scorers with three goals and also added an assist.Maggie Tamasitis led Notre Dame with five points on one goal and four assists.

NU won despite losing the turnover battle and getting outshot by Notre Dame. The Cats were bailed out on several occasions by junior goalkeeper Brianne LoManto, who compiled nine saves, including two point-blank saves in the final minutes of the match.

The final score wasn’t all that convincing, considering last year’s performances against Notre Dame. In two contests at Lakeside Field last season, the Cats defeated the Fighting Irish by a combined score of 34-12.

As impressive as the Cats’ season-opening win was, their next challenge will be even harder, as NU travels to Chapel Hill, N.C., to take on No. 3 North Carolina Friday evening. The Tar Heels were one of two teams to defeat the Cats last season.

“North Carolina is a great team,” senior attacker Shannon Smith said. “They’re very well-coached. They have a very balanced attack, a great defense. I’m sure it will be a very competitive game like it’s always been.”