Lacrosse: Wildcats make second home in Keystone State

Rohan Nadkarni

The Keystone State may as well be a second home for Northwestern.

The No. 1 Wildcats (12-0, 3-0 ALC) completed a sweep of No. 12 Penn State and No. 8 Penn on the road over the weekend, maintaining their undefeated record.

NU’s first game was a Friday tilt against the Nittany Lions (8-4, 1-2 ALC) in University Park, Pa. The Cats took care of their conference opponent, notching a 14-7 victory.

The win came on the heels of NU’s toughest game of the season, a 13-12 overtime jaunt with Ohio State. After the team nearly suffered a loss against the Buckeyes, Penn State fell victim to an extremely focused Cats squad.

“We knew we had a big road weekend,” senior goalie Brianne LoManto said. “We knew they were going to come out really hard. We made sure we were focused and out there ready to play.”

NU’s focus showed itself on the defensive end, as the Cats forced the Nittany Lions into 14 turnovers. The pressure on Penn State’s offense led to extra opportunities for the Cats, and NU’s scorers did not disappoint.

Senior attacker Shannon Smithscored the Cats’ first three goals and added one more to help the team carry a 7-3 lead into halftime. In the second stanza, Penn State saw more of the same, with Smith adding another goal to give her five for the day.

Also getting on the board multiple times for NU were junior midfielders Erin Fitzgerald and Ali Cassera and sophomore attacker Kara Mupo,who each put in two goals of their own. LoManto added eight saves, six of which came in the first period.

After a day off to travel across the state, the Cats had another tough test waiting for them in Philadelphia, where the top-10 Penn Quakers hosted NU.

Once again, the Cats’ defense jump-started a blowout of the opponent. NU won the game 14-6, forcing the Quakers into 16 turnovers, including one on each of their first five possessions.

“We have a lot of experience and some great personalities out there,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said of the key to the defense’s success. “We have great chemistry together.”

The Cats’ offensive onslaught on Penn was another balanced attack. Smith posted another hat trick, her seventh in 12 games, as did Fitzgerald, who recorded her fifth hat trick of the season. Smith’s goals moved her into second place on NU’s all-time scoring leaders list.

Junior defender Taylor Thornton added two goals of her own, as did Mupo. NU started the contest racing out to a 5-0 lead and dominated the game the rest of the way.

The Cats outshot the Quakers 24-11, held a double-digit advantage in ground balls, and committed fewer turnovers and fouls than Penn. LoManto added five saves.

After shutting the door on Penn, the Cats now play host for the rest of their games until the postseason.”It’s amazing to think about it,” Amonte Hiller said. “We’re really excited to head back and be in front of our home crowd. We really want to focus in on these next few weeks, and we have some great opponents in front of us.”

NU’s next game is a Friday night showdown against the University of North Carolina.

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