Lacrosse: Northwestern knocks off top-20 opponents Duke, Stanford over weekend

Northwestern midfielder Alyssa Leonard won 5 draw controls against Duke on Friday to secure the school-record for most draw controls in a career. The junior secured 3 more draw controls on Sunday to extend her record to 272 draw controls in less than three seasons.

Daily file photo by Melody Song

Northwestern midfielder Alyssa Leonard won 5 draw controls against Duke on Friday to secure the school-record for most draw controls in a career. The junior secured 3 more draw controls on Sunday to extend her record to 272 draw controls in less than three seasons.

Rohan Nadkarni, Online Sports Editor

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In a battle of radically different styles, Northwestern’s slow and steady approach eventually wore out Stanford’s fast-paced offense.

The No. 4 Wildcats (13-1) handled the No. 15 Cardinal (8-4) 12-8 at Lakeside Field on Sunday, withstanding an early run and then dominating the second half en route to their second victory of the weekend. NU also defeated No. 9 Duke 12-4 on Friday.

The second half decided Sunday’s contest. After Stanford stonewalled senior attacker Erin Fitzgerald’s late scoring chance in the last seconds of the first half, it seemed like the Cardinal seized momentum despite trailing 8-7 headed into the break. But the Cats controlled the final period on the defensive end, only allowing Stanford one goal more than 25 minutes into the half.

NU scored the first 4 goals coming out of the break, putting the game out of reach for Stanford.

“The defense came out and they really competed,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said of the second half. “(The defense) did a great job of locking down, stopping their matchups and just playing as a team.”

Senior midfielder Taylor Thornton said the key to the switch in defensive intensity came from a change in strategy.

“We went to more of a man-to-man defense,” Thornton said. “We didn’t have to move around as much. We had to come up with draw controls and ground balls, and that’s what’s going to win you games. I think we dominated that in the second half.”

Stanford started the game strong, running out to a 3-1 lead early in the first half. The Cardinal put the Cats’ defense on their heels, quickly attacking the net and taking shots early in possessions. But NU rebounded from Stanford’s early onslaught and scored 5 straight goals to take a 6-3 lead, which it would never relinquish.

Fitzgerald and Thornton each scored once in the opening 30 minutes. Free position shots greatly aided NU’s offense, which scored seven goals in such situations, including five times in the first half. Senior attacker Beatrice Conley also added a goal in each half. 

“We like to make sure that we’re on the same page,” Conley said of the Cats’ methodical offense. “Even if it takes us eight minutes to get a goal, it just matters that we have the ball and we’re in control.”

After the Cats’ five-goal run, Stanford answered with 2 goals of their own to draw within 6-5. But NU added another 2 to re-gain its three-goal lead. After the Cats went ahead 8-5, the Cardinal managed to pull back to 8-7 before the stop on Fitzgerald with seconds left in the first half, but they would not come any closer. 

Sunday’s contest played much differently than the Cats’ first game of the weekend, when they dominated Duke. 

NU stormed out of the gates, scoring the game’s first 7 goals to take a 7-0 lead into halftime. Fitzgerald scored 4 of her 5 goals in the first half, while sophomore goalkeeper Bridget Bianco routinely turned away any of the Blue Devils’ attackers. 

The win was the Cats’ 10th straight against Duke, and it came because of a stifling effort on the defensive end. NU held Duke to 14 shots and also created 9 turnovers. The Cats pushed their lead to 12-1 in the second half before the Blue Devils scored the game’s final 3 goals, creating a final score much closer than the actual contest.

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