Lacrosse: Wildcats comeback to knock off Buckeyes

Rohan Nadkarni

In the first-ever women’s lacrosse game at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL’s New England Patriots, No. 14 Ohio State (7-3, 0-2 ALC) and No. 1 Northwestern (10-0, 2-0 ALC) put on a show.

In a back-and-forth battle that went into overtime, the Wildcats toppled the Buckeyes 13-12. The Cats overcame an 11-7 second-half deficit, forcing the game into overtime with 19 seconds left on an Erin Fitzgerald goal. The junior midfielder’s game-tying goal was her fifth of the game and sent the teams out of regulation at an 11-11 deadlock. In the extra period, senior attacker Shannon Smith scored twice to give the Cats a 13-11 cushion, one they would need when the Buckeyes mounted a furious attack in the final moments.

“They were a great team,” senior midfielder Alex Frank said. “We had a game plan and we tried to stick to it as much as possible, but they were athletic and really moved the ball around quickly.”

The teams began the game very evenly matched, trading off almost every goal. Neither team led by more than one in the first half.

Ohio State opened the scoring before the teams traded off scoring two each. Fitzgerald and junior defender Taylor Thornton scored NU’s first two goals. After the Buckeyes went up 4-3, the Cats responded with two more goals from Fitzgerald. Ohio State would tack on two more before sophomore attacker Kara Mupo tied the game at six heading into halftime.

After the break, the Buckeyes started to roll. Ohio State scored five of the half’s first six goals, with only Mupo getting on the board for NU. The Buckeyes led 11-7 with 19 minutes and 41 seconds remaining, and that’s when the Cats began mounting their comeback.

NU scored three goals in a five-minute span. Smith got on the board first, and was followed by scores from sophomore midfielder Kat DeRonda and Fitzgerald.

With the score at 11-10, the Ohio State defense tightened considerably, refusing the Cats at every turn. It wasn’t until 19 seconds were left that Fitzgerald tied the game, earning a free position shot from less than 10 meters out.

In overtime, Smith scored twice in the first three minutes, and NU was aided by senior goalie Brianne LoManto, whose only save in the overtime period came from point-blank range.

The Buckeyes did manage to score once in the game’s last three minutes, but their comeback attempt was slowed by three yellow cards and numerous stoppages in play due to officiating.

Despite the win, Ohio State’s threat to ruin NU’s undefeated season emphasized the target on the Cats’ back. The game was the Cats’ toughest contest since an 11-9 overtime win against Syracuse. The 12 goals scored by Ohio State mark the highest total any team has scored against NU all season.

“Like all games, everyone is out to get us,” Frank said. “We can’t take any game lightly. We need to come out twice as hard to come out with a win.”

In the end, the Cats earned a thrilling victory on a special stage.

“It was very cool,” said Frank, a Massachusetts native. “I’m from Boston, so playing in Gillette was something I could only dream of. It was an amazing opportunity and just a lot of fun to play in.”

[email protected]