Lacrosse: Northwestern hopes history repeats, looks to rebound at Notre Dame

Senior attack Erin Fitzgerald streaks toward the goal against Penn State earlier this season. The senior, who leads Northwestern in goals, was held to only 4 shots and 2 goals on Saturday in the teams loss against Florida.

Daily file photo by Melody Song

Senior attack Erin Fitzgerald streaks toward the goal against Penn State earlier this season. The senior, who leads Northwestern in goals, was held to only 4 shots and 2 goals on Saturday in the team’s loss against Florida.

Ava Wallace, Assistant Sports Editor

As badly as Saturday’s game against Florida went for Northwestern, the Wildcats can take solace knowing they have been in this position before and emerged on top.

Score-wise, NU under coach Kelly Amonte Hiller has never been on the bad end of such a lopsided defeat. But just as they did last year, the Cats will gather themselves after suffering a loss against the Gators, who have become the perennial thorn in the Cats’ paws, and face Notre Dame with the hope of redemption.

Amonte Hiller is confident that the team will rebound, whether history is on its side or not.

“It’s not so much about what happened last year,” Amonte Hiller said. “It’s that I have total confidence in this team and what they can do.”

The No. 4 Cats (13-2) battle the No. 9 Fighting Irish (11-3) in South Bend, Ind., on Wednesday in NU’s last away game of the season.

The end of the 2012 season followed a similar pattern – the Cats lost to the Gators 14-7 in Gainesville, Fla., and five days later played the Fighting Irish, a game NU won 12-7.

Last year’s game against Notre Dame was a chance for the Cats to improve on their offense, which struggled with the Gators’ defense just as the current squad did Saturday.

Last season, Florida held NU’s two leading scorers, then-junior attack Erin Fitzgerald and former attack Shannon Smith,to 1 and 3 shots, respectively, and neither scored.

This year, Fitzgerald netted 2 goals – 1 on a free position shot – but was still held to only 4 shots throughout the game. The Gators’ defense also caused 8 turnovers and kept the Cats’ total goals to an unusually low 4.

Still, if the pattern holds, NU will bounce back for a win.

After last year’s loss to Florida, the Cats turned around against Notre Dame, taking 29 shots, compared to the 19 they took against the Gators, and winning 14 draw controls, compared to the 10 they won against the Gators.

This time around, NU will also look to limit turnovers — it committed 11 against Florida on Saturday — win more draw controls – the Gators won 17 compared to the Cats’ 11 – and work the ball through its offense more efficiently, as the Cats’ attack provided 0 assists Saturday.

The Cats also face another fierce defense in the Fighting Irish, who rank sixth nationally in caused turnovers. Notre Dame’s Barbara Sullivan also ranks second nationally in ground balls – the sophomore has collected 45 in 14 games this season.

Pit Sullivan against NU’s leading ground ball collector Gabriella Flibotte, who has 41 for the season,and Wednesday evening’s game should be an interesting battle for possession in the midfield.

Both Flibotte and Sullivan also take draws, though Sullivan, who is second on the team with 32 draw controls, will likely match up with junior draw control specialist Alyssa Leonard.

Leonard has 96 draw controls so far this season and is 14 away from tying NU’s all-time single season record.

As Leonard inches closer to another individual record, the Cats as a whole are looking forward to playing for their 14th straight win against the Fighting Irish, the sixth opponent NU has played this season currently ranked in the top 10.

“The girls were really excited to have another opportunity right away on Wednesday and get back out on the field, get together, and really regroup and reset,” Amonte Hiller said. “Sunday they were a little down and figuring out what they need to do to be better, but once Monday came around, they were ready to work.”