NU bests Boston College, advances to NCAA quarterfinals

Colin Becht

Saturday’s matchup between Northwestern and Boston College was the sort of game neither team will reflect upon fondly. Both the Wildcats and the Eagles committed costly turnovers and failed to execute with great efficacy offensively.

Luckily for NU, despite their errors, the Cats did just enough hang on to an early lead and down the Eagles 11-8 in the first round of the NCAA Championships.

“I did say at one point, ‘Are we trying to give this game away?'” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “When the game is on the line, you see (sophomore defender) Taylor Thornton step up, you see people make big plays.”

NU advances to play Albany next Saturday at 7 p.m.

On a blustery, misty day, the Cats and the Eagles combined for 35 turnovers, though only 17 of them were caused by defensive play.

“I don’t think (the weather) had any effect,” junior attacker Shannon Smith said. “It was due to our lack of focus on the field.”

Turnovers prevented NU from cruising to a victory by simply running out the rest of the clock in the second half. Instead, the Cats were consistently back on the defense to recover from eight second-half giveaways.

“It was a little bit dicey there in the second half, in terms of our turnovers,” Amonte Hiller said. “We would have liked to have kind of cleaned that up and played out the game more simply.”

Boston College was the greater offender though, turning the ball over 21 times, with four turnovers each from attackers Brittany Wilton and Moira Barry.

“Our downfall this game was uncaused turnovers,” Wilton said.

The Eagles’ inability to hang on to the ball helped negate what would have been a tremendous possession advantage caused by Boston College’s 14-7 lead in draw controls.

Though NU leads the nation in draw controls, Wilton is second individually and proved her knack for winning draws, controlling six herself. As the draw taker, she helped the Eagles secure each of the first six draws of the game.

“She was just quick-handed and strong, kind of going up to herself,” junior midfielder Alex Frank said. “When the ball did go up and it hit the ground, we weren’t really first to the ball, and we definitely needed to just have that quicker step.”

While Boston College held the early draws of the game, it was NU that jumped out to an early lead. The Cats scored the first four goals of the game, needing only seven shots to do so.

The NU defense weathered a great storm to hold Boston College scoreless for nearly the first 20 minutes of the game. The Eagles failed to score on their first nine shots, denied four times by saves from junior goaltender Brianne LoManto, who finished the game with seven saves.

“Breezy came up with some great saves,” Smith said.

Boston College also didn’t score on any of its first six free-position shots and finished just 3-of-10 on those opportunities.

Asked why her team struggled to finish its free positions, Boston College coach Bowen Holden shook her head before saying she didn’t have an answer.

The Cats never managed to extend their lead further than their initial 4-0 advantage as the Eagles refused to go away, drawing within as close as two in the second half.

Though NU could never rest easily, the offense responded to each run from Boston College with a counter-run of its own. When the Eagles rallied to bring the score to 8-6, Smith scored and then assisted freshman attacker Kara Mupo for a quickstick goal to reestablish a four-goal advantage.

“When it came down to it, I think we stepped up, and next week we will correct our turnovers,” Smith said.

Smith finished the game with seven points, including five goals. None of her displays of dominance was more fantastic than when Smith drove from behind the goal and scored from a seemingly impossible angle, immediately left of the goal. She was the only NU player with multiple goals.

“That’s the way Shannon plays,” Amonte Hiller said. “In order to be successful, you have to have your top players play well.”

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