Lacrosse: Boston College’s 2nd half run not enough to overcome Northwestern in home opener at Lakeside Field

Senior midfielder Erin Fitzgerald looks to attack during a game last season. Fitzgerald led Northwestern with five goals Wednesday against Boston College.

Daily file photo by Alissa Zhu

Senior midfielder Erin Fitzgerald looks to attack during a game last season. Fitzgerald led Northwestern with five goals Wednesday against Boston College.

Ava Wallace, Assistant Sports Editor

Under the lights and surrounded by snow, Northwestern had to depend on its first half lead to clinch a solid win in its home opener against Boston College at Lakeside Field on Wednesday night.

With the snow pushed up against the sides of the field and packed higher than coach Kelly Amonte Hiller has ever seen it at Lakeside Field, the Wildcats (4-1) beat Boston College (2-3), 17-10. The win was Amonte Hiller’s 200th career victory, but the coach deflected attention from herself and instead focused on what another win means for her team’s progress.

“I think it’s just a number,” Amonte Hiller said. “I think that this was a good step forward for us, I think we did some nice things. We still have a lot to improve on, but it’s very exciting and … I think the girls are starting to realize what it takes and come together.”

Amonte Hiller called her squad a “young team,” and in addition to starting to come together as a unit, she said the team is still learning about momentum and experimenting with their places on the field.

The Cats had to fight a momentum change toward the end of the first half that continued into the second half. After dominating for most of the first period, NU’s play relaxed with about five minutes to go as Boston College edged closer, a trend that continued in the next period.

NU had 9 goals compared to Boston College’s 2 during the game’s first half, but the second half score was tied 8-8. The Eagles also collected 15 ground balls during the second half, 4 more than the Cats collected, and tied NU for draw controls. Each team had 8 apiece in the second half.

Senior midfielder Erin Fitzgerald, who led the team with 5 goals against Boston College, said the Cats may have gotten too comfortable after their dominant first half. Fitzgerald also praised Boston College’s defense, which forced 12 of NU’s 19 turnovers.

“They were putting a lot of pressure on us and they played really good defense,” Fitzgerald said. “We ended up changing what we were doing just to stick with their high pressure.”

The Cats also adjusted their midfield game halfway through the first half, when the Eagles stopped pressuring defensively in the midfield and started dropping to defense early on during NU’s possessions. That defensive plan made things easier for the Cats, who had been focusing on their transition game over their 10-day break since their last game against Vanderbilt.

“They definitely started hanging back and just waiting for us, which actually allowed us to push in transition and just hit them basically when we get to the 8-meter,” Fitzgerald said. “We were able to handle it, and we did a good job of changing what we were doing because they we changing what they were doing.”

Other than Fitzgerald, senior midfielder Amanda Macaluso found the back of the net multiple times, contributing 3 goals.

Younger players also pitched in — freshmen midfielders Christina Esposito, who started the game, and Nancy Dunbar each scored — Dunbar’s was her first shot and goal of her career. Sophomore midfielder Brooks Lawler scored 2 goals, and sophomore attacker Paige Jones recorded the first goal of her career in the game.

Although Amonte Hiller said she thinks her team did not play their full 60 minutes in the home opener, she was pleased with how well her less experienced players performed.

“After the loss to North Carolina we really sat down and went back to the drawing board,” she said. “We tried to really think outside the box and put some people at different spots …  you know, we put some young kids in some leadership roles but I think they did a pretty good job for the first time out.”

Amonte Hiller also specifically praised senior midfielder Gabriella Flibotte, whom Amonte Hiller moved to defense for this game. Flibotte scored 1 goal, collected 5 of NU’s 18 ground balls, had 4 draw controls and caused 6 turnovers. 

Despite some players’ individual performances and the first home win of the season under the team’s belt — the Cats are now 83-2 all time at Lakeside Field — Amonte Hiller said the team is not quite satisfied, especially with the early loss to North Carolina still looming over the season. She said NU’s goal against Boston College was not to make a statement.

“I don’t know about sending a message,” Amonte Hiller said. “Maybe sending a message to ourselves, you know, that we can go out there and compete every second. I think that’s really the goal.”