Lacrosse: Northwestern needs overtime against Syracuse to stay undefeated

Rohan Nadkarni

Northwestern will definitely be looking forward to playing at home.

For the third week in a row, the No. 1 Wildcats (3-0) battled on the road, this time barely escaping with an 11-9 overtime win over No. 9 Syracuse (1-2).

Senior attacker Shannon Smith and junior midfielder Erin Fitzgerald each scored a goal in the extra period, lifting NU to victory.

The Cats led 9-6 late in the second half, but squandered that lead in the final four minutes.

The Cats had won their first two road contests against top-ten opponents handily, but the Orange proved a tougher test. Syracuse jumped on NU early and entered halftime with a 6-3 lead.

“Their wings came out and attacked us hard,” Smith said. “They came out with a lot of energy.”

It appeared the Wildcat team from the first two games of the season didn’t show up until after halftime, when NU scored six straight goals to take a 9-6 lead. The defense struggled to contain junior Michelle Tumolo, who scored three goals and assisted on two others on her way to a five-point night. Tumolo sent the game into overtime on her third goal with 51 seconds remaining.

“We lacked mental focus at the start,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “They were able to capitalize on our mistakes and put it into overtime.”

This year’s game was reminiscent of the two teams’ 2010 tilt, when the Cats won a close battle, 13-12.

The Orange were an even match for the Cats again on Wednesday, led by Tumolo and sophomore Katie Webster who combined for six goals.

A bright spot for the Cats was the play of senior goalkeeper Brianne LoManto, who recorded nine saves, including six in the second half and overtime.

The Cats employed a balanced attack outside of Smith who scored five goals and assisted another. Six others players all scored a goal each.

Even with the Cats’ third straight victory, it was clear the program’s leader was upset about the display against Syracuse.

“(The Orange) were really ready to compete,” Amonte Hiller said. “I really don’t think our girls were ready.”

Fortunately, the Cats will still enter their Saturday home-opener without a loss on their record.

“I don’t think it was a wake-up call,” Smith said. “We just need make sure we’re always ready.”

[email protected]