Lacrosse: No. 1 Wildcats bombard No. 5 Blue Devils, 13-5

Rohan Nadkarni

Right now, it doesn’t matter which coast No. 1 Northwestern’s schedule takes them to. The result is the same. The Wildcats (2-0) defeated No. 5 Duke (3-2) 13-5 in Durham, N.C., on Sunday, nine days after their first win in California.

Senior attacker Shannon Smith and junior midfielder Erin Fitzgerald, who scored five and four goals respectively, led the Cats to their second straight win over a top-10 opponent. With her five goals, Smith moved into sixth place on NU’s all-time scoring list.

“I was really focused,” Smith said. “My teammates really opened me up and allowed me to score from all over.”

Similar to last Friday’s battle with Stanford, the Cats pulled away with a second-half scoring spree. NU won eight of its 10 draw controls in the second half, keying an 8-2 run that put the Blue Devils away.

The Cats defense also managed to keep the Duke offense in check. The Blue Devils entered the contest averaging more than 16 goals per game, but they have now been held to five apiece in their two losses this season. Senior goalie Brianne LoManto aided the defensive effort with five saves.

“We are working together as a team and being unselfish,” Smith said of NU’s inspired effort in all phases of the game. “Our defense is playing phenomenally right now.”

After coach Kelly Amonte Hiller described Duke as having “good players all over the field” in the week leading up to the game, NU’s defense kept the Blue Devils’ biggest stars under control.

Blue Devil senior attacker Emma Hamm, who was a Tewaaraton finalist last year, recorded only one assist on the day. Duke’s standout freshman Kerrin Maurer was limited to one goal after coming into the game with seven.

As the game bore on, the Blue Devils seemed to wither in the rain. After halftime, Duke only won three draws, had only seven shots on goal – compared to NU’s 14 – and committed 21 of its 28 fouls.

Even with Smith and Fitzgerald scoring nine of the Cats’ 13 goals, the offense was flowing throughout the team. The Cats finished the game with 25 shots, and four different players scored in addition to Smith and Fitzgerald.

Smith dominated the first half, scoring four of her five goals, three of which were unassisted. Fitzgerald added NU’s other goal in the first half off an assist from freshman midfielder Brooks Lawler.

In the second half, with the Cats already holding a 5-3 lead, more players started to get in on the action. Fitzgerald scored the rest of her four goals, including one with an assist from Smith.

Sophomore attacker Kate MacDonald and junior midfielder Amanda Macaluso opened the scoring in the final frame, pushing NU’s lead to 7-3. The Blue Devils crept back into the game and got the score to 10-5 on Molly Quirke’s second goal with five minutes and 53 seconds remaining.

However, the Cats put the finishing touches on Duke by scoring the game’s final three goals. Fitzgerald tallied her fourth with three minutes and 57 seconds remaining, and sophomore midfielder Alyssa Leonard and senior defender Lacey Vigmostad knocked home the final two.

Although the Cats have already put away two title contenders in back-to-back games, they know that the Blue Devils could appear again on NU’s schedule come tournament time.

“I don’t take anything away from Duke,” Smith said. “Duke is a fantastic team. They have a lot of weapons and a lot of threats. They are a team we have to keep our eye on.”

The Cats’ next game will be on the last day of the month, when they play their third-straight road game against Syracuse on Feb. 29.

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