Lacrosse: Wildcats get by Louisville to set up Florida rematch


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Junior attack Kara Mupo scores one of her 4 goals Sunday against Louisville. Mupo’s timely scoring helped Northwestern keep the Cardinals at bay in the second half.

Alex Putterman, Sports Editor

It wasn’t easy, but with a win Sunday, Northwestern earned its way to the rematch it craves.

The No. 5 seed Wildcats (13-6) defeated No. 16 Louisville (16-4) 11-8 on Sunday at Lakeside Field to advance to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals in Gainesville, Florida. There, the Cats will meet No. 4 Florida, a team that has already dealt NU two heartbreaking losses this season, one in the regular season and one in the ALC Tournament.

(Lacrosse: Northwestern lets 5-goal lead, ALC title slip away against Florida)

“Obviously, I’m very excited to make it to the next round,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “We had some really great moments (Sunday).”

The Cats had to work hard to advance to the next game. They trailed 5-4 early in the second half but took over from there.

Junior attack Kara Mupo netted a pair of scores 10 seconds apart in the second half to restore the Cats’ lead, later followed by a goal from senior draw control specialist Alyssa Leonard and another from Mupo that gave NU an 8-5 lead.

NU maintained at least a 2-goal advantage the rest of the way.

“We wanted to stay aggressive,” Mupo said. “We wanted to keep pushing in transition. We were really effective because all seven people on offense were doing their job. We played great team offense.”

Leonard — the NCAA’s all-time leader in career draw controls — dominated the circle Sunday. The senior faced stiff competition, Louisville’s Kaylin Morissette, who ranked second in the nation in draw controls this season. But Leonard won nine draws to Morissette’s three, leading the Cats’ possession offense.

“Leonard is excellent on the draw,” Louisville coach Kellie Young said. “Leonard had a great day. Giving their attack possession is going to give them a chance to score.”

NU struck first Sunday, as junior midfielder Jess Carroll netted the game’s first goal just over a minute in. But Louisville’s Courtnee Daley responded with 2 scores in the next two minutes and then with another later in the half to give her team a 3-1 lead.

After a flurry of action in the opening minutes, NU slowed down the game and limited Louisville’s offense.

“They are very fast and aggressive and effective,” Amonte Hiller said. “We adjusted to how hard they were going out in the transition. Once we kind of stopped their initial push we were able to cause some turnovers.”

Freshman midfielder Sheila Nesselbush recovered a loose ball and scored to bring the Cats within a goal, then Carroll tied the game with her second of the day. With 4:18 to play in the half, sophomore Lauren Murray scored to gave NU a 4-3 lead going into halftime.

The Cardinals scored the first 2 goals of the second half, but Mupo and company made sure the Cardinals never truly threatened again.

NU had an answer to every Louisville threat the rest of the way. Later in the half, Leonard and senior midfielder Christy Turner scored before Mupo iced the game with her fourth of the day, bringing the total NU goals to 11.

With 12 seconds left and the game in hand, the officials paused the game to discuss a call while NU huddled in its half of the field for the last time at Lakeside Field this season.

“We all took a deep breath,” senior Kerri Harrington said. “I looked at the seniors and I was like, ‘Let’s enjoy this last 12 seconds.’ Who knows what the next round is going to bring, but it was really nice to take a deep breath, look at the setting and really soak it in.”

The Gators defeated Denver 19-9 on Sunday to set up the rematch.

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