Lacrosse: Wildcats get long-awaited revenge in upset win against No. 8 Notre Dame


Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Christina Esposito runs with the ball. The senior attacker had her second hat trick of the season in Sunday’s win.

Dan Waldman, Assistant Sports Editor


For Northwestern, it was sweet revenge as the visiting Wildcats edged out Notre Dame in a rematch of last year’s season finale.

No. 9 NU (2-0) downed the No. 8 Fighting Irish (0-1) on Sunday, holding on to a 14-13 lead with just a minute left in the game to emerge with the statement victory. Last season, Notre Dame bounced the Cats from the NCAA Tournament in a 15-3 rout. But this time around, NU made sure to write the script.

NU fell behind early, conceding a goal just three minutes into the game. But the Cats quickly knotted the score after junior midfielder Sheila Nesselbush netted her first goal of the season. The Midwest rivals traded another pair of goals shortly after, with the game seemingly headed toward a back-and-forth shootout. But NU’s offense had other plans, scoring 6 unanswered goals to extend its lead to 8-2.

Senior Christina Esposito said the team’s hot start stemmed from the emotions that accompanied last year’s season-ending loss.

“Me being a fifth year, I thought about my grade, how it ended our season, all of us being in the locker room at the end of that game last year,” Esposito said. “We just brought that with us, and there was a lot of emotion towards this game.”

But the Cats were unable to cruise to a victory. The Fighting Irish went on a 7-1 run, tying the game at 9 goals apiece under two minutes before halftime.

NU wasn’t in the mood to settle.

Esposito took matters into her own hands. The veteran faked a shot from the free position, only to eventually wrap around the goal and rip a score from the wing, giving NU a 10-9 lead heading into the break.

“That goal was really important; it was a momentum changer and gave our team a little extra boost of confidence,” Esposito said. “Notre Dame was on a bit of a run towards the end of the first half so that goal definitely brought the momentum back into our hands.”

In the second half, Esposito struck first, securing her second hat trick in two games. Freshman midfielder Megan Kinna followed suit shortly after, locking up the first hat trick of her young NU career. Then with a 12-9 lead in hand, the Cats turned to junior attacker Selena Lasota who, after a series of ball flips, whipped in a backhanded shot to score her fourth goal of the game.

The Fighting Irish made a final push, cutting the deficit to 2 before attacker Grace Muller converted on a free-position shot to make the score 14-13 with 1:04 left.

The Cats’ defense held, securing the upset for NU. Lasota said the final draw control was critical for the team and preserved the victory.

“In the preseason we focused a lot on controlling the draw,” Lasota said. “I was actually on the draw, and it was fun for me to have the focus to be able to get the ball and then we stalled it at the end.”

After starting last season with a series of losses to ranked teams like Virginia, Syracuse and Louisville, the Cats’ win over Notre Dame sets a different tone for a team eyeing a return to glory.

“Having the losses that we had last year, this game we kind of focused in on,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “Coming out with every win we can, we don’t want to let any opportunities through our fingers.”

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