Lacrosse: NU flatlines at Hopkins, drops second consecutive game

Colin Becht

With Northwestern trailing Johns Hopkins by two and just seven minutes remaining, junior midfielder Alex Frank took over the game. Frank won a draw control and then scored less than a minute later off a feed from junior attacker Shannon Smith. Frank then won the ensuing draw control and fired a shot on net, hoping for the game-tying goal.

Instead, like Gordon Bombay in “The Mighty Ducks,” Frank drilled her shot off the left post. The No. 2 Wildcats (12-2, 2-2 American Lacrosse Conference) would not muster another shot and fell 12-11 on Saturday, their second straight loss after winning their first 12 games of the season.

“I do kind of play it back in my head,” Frank said. “I was thinking it was going in, but with the post it’s always difficult because if you’re trying to be so precise with your shot, you leave that little room for being able to hit the post or having it go wide.”

The Cats lost back-to-back games for the first time since April 19, 2003. It was NU’s first loss to an unranked foe since losing to Virginia Tech on April 13, 2003.

“The players are taking it pretty seriously hopefully, trying to figure out what they need to do to get better and play simple and get back on track,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said.

The Cats were unable to hang on to a 10-9 lead midway through the second half, allowing the Blue Jays (9-5, 1-2) to go on a 3-0 run.

After a Smith score gave NU its one-goal lead, Johns Hopkins attacker Brooke Foussadier controlled the draw and raced upfield, finding teammate Katie Duffey for the quick tying score. Foussadier assisted on the go-ahead goal as well, feeding a wide-open Rachel Ballatori right in front of the cage. Attacker Colleen McCaffrey put away what turned out to be the game winner, her third goal of the game.

NU was once again afflicted by the same shortcomings it has suffered from for much of the season. The Cats scored just 11 goals despite vastly outshooting the Blue Jays 28-19.

Smith garnered two points, well below her 5.57 points per game average, and like many of her teammates, struggled to put shots on target and beat Johns Hopkins goaltender Cosette Larash. Of Smith’s six shots, only one was on goal.

“Mostly it’s knowing that you are in control and have the ability to put the ball where you want it when you have the ball, just taking those few extra seconds to make sure the ball is going to go in.” Frank said.

Sophomore midfielder Erin Fitzgerald, who led NU with four goals in Thursday’s 13-11 loss to No. 6 Florida, managed to get all five of her shots on goal, but all but one found the netting of Cosette’s stick rather than the netting of the cage.

“It’s the type of opportunities,” Amonte Hiller said. “We just need to go back to the basics on offense and stick to our plan and play simple and create quality opportunities for ourselves. The more quality the shot, the easier it is for that shot to go in.”

As in Thursday’s loss, the Cats shot their own comeback in the foot with crucial late turnovers, committing 11 in the second half. Three of those 11 occurred in the final three minutes of the game when NU was desperately seeking an equalizer.

“It’s just being calm in a pressure situation,” Amonte Hiller said. “Having the confidence and knowing that you’re going to be able to execute the small things and continuing to focus in on those small things.”

Perhaps none of NU’s turnovers was more crucial than senior midfielder Brooke Matthews’ offensive foul with 50 seconds remaining. Matthews scooped up a ground ball near midfield but just four seconds later, she crashed into Johns Hopkins defender Alyssa Kildare and was called for a charging foul. NU never regained possession of the ball.

“We would make a really great play and then we’d make a really not so smart play,” Matthews said. “We would almost relax.”

The Cats appeared to be in control of Saturday’s contest early on, jumping out to a 3-0 lead. NU led almost all the first half, bolstered by two goals from Matthews. However, despite losingTaylor D’Amore, second on Johns Hopkins in points, midway through the first half due to two yellow cards, the Blue Jays kept their scoring in step with NU’s due to much more efficient shooting. Johns Hopkins scored 12 of its 19 shots and NU goalie Brianne LoManto came up with just two saves in the game.

“We can’t just show up and think we’re going to win,” Matthews said. “We’ve never thought that, but we really just need to know that every team wants to beat us.”

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