Lacrosse: Northwestern notches first win with 18-6 Stanford rout

Rohan Nadkarni

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Top teams always want to prove themselves against the cream of the crop. No. 1 Northwestern not only proved itself Friday night but also sent a message about how serious it is about defending its crown.

The Wildcats (1-0) defeated No. 6 Stanford (0-1) 18-6, erasing the Cardinal’s 22-game home winning streak in the process.

Stanford has developed a rivalry with the Cats, built further after a closely contested game in Evanston last year, which the Cats won with a late goal. The two teams are both national title contenders from regions not generally considered hotspots for lacrosse.

The Cats started the season scorching offensively. Thirty-two seconds into the game, junior defender Taylor Thornton gave NU the lead with an unassisted goal. Less than a minute later, senior attack Shannon Smith scored her first goal of the season, putting the Cats ahead 2-0.

The Cardinal stormed back, tying the game at 2. However, NU would not be denied, scoring the next three goals. Ali Cassera tossed in the Cats’ next two, with one coming off an assist from junior midfielder Erin Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald then put NU ahead 5-2 with a goal of her own.

The Cardinal inched closer with another goal, but the Cats responded yet again. Smith scored her second of the game, this time collecting her own rebound to beat Stanford goalie Lyndsey Munoz. The Cats went into halftime with a 7-4 lead.

In the game’s second stanza, NU pulled away for good. With a 19-8 advantage in shots after the first half, goals started to pour in the second half, a reflection of NU’s offensive dominance.

Thornton opened the scoring again, giving way for the Cats’ 11-2 run. After Thornton’s strike, freshman midfielder Brooks Lawler scored her first career goal when she put a shot past Munoz after a series of saves from the Stanford goalie.

Fitzgerald then scored two of the team’s next four goals, giving her a hat trick for the day. The junior scored on two free position goals while senior Jessica Russo finished off a Smith assist, and Smith scored her own hat trick on a free-position shot.

“It was exciting,” Fitzgerald said of her hat trick. “I got a lot of help from my teammates, and it’s a great feeling. This was definitely an important victory.”

NU continued to pour it on against their West Coast rival near the game’s conclusion. Sophomore midfielder Kate Macdonald got in on the action with a goal off an assist from freshman midfielder Casey Bocklet.

Junior midfielder Beatrice Conley scored an unassisted goal before the Cats hammered home three free position goals from sophomore midfielders Alyssa Leonard, Kat DeRonda and Kelly Rich.

NU controlled the game in nearly every statistical category. The team nearly tripled Stanford in terms of shots, finishing the game with a 37-14 edge. The Cats also had 20 draw controls compared to the Cardinal’s 6, and scored on 10-of-21 free-position shots, while Stanford scored on 0-of-4 attempts.

“We brought a lot of energy to the game,” Fitzgerald said. “Every play we were backing each other up. Even if something negative happened, we were there for each other.”

NU senior goalie Brianne LoManto made four saves, while Munoz stopped 13 shots.

The Cats’ next contest is another top-10 matchup against No. 5 Duke on Sunday.