Lacrosse: Second-half surge gives Northwestern crucial win over Duke
April 16, 2017
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Claire Quinn was fouled twice — hard — in the midfield. Seconds later, after bouncing up and running half the length of the field, she was scoring Northwestern’s go-ahead goal.
“I went down and I came up and I didn’t want to think I was hurt,” the sophomore defender said. “I didn’t want anyone to think that I was going to put my head down. So I drove to the cage and I scored and I think that really hyped up the team.”
Quinn’s goal with 11 minutes left, the second in a stretch of five consecutive for the No. 16 Wildcats, gave the hosts the lead for good en route to a 12-10 win over No. 20 Duke on Saturday afternoon.
Senior attacker Danita Stroup, on her Senior Day, scored three goals for NU (8-7, 3-1 Big Ten) including the tying goal two minutes prior to Quinn’s go-ahead marker. The win moved the Cats back above .500 by topping the Blue Devils (7-7) in front of a lively crowd of 1,323 at Martin Stadium.
“It’s definitely an emotional boost when (Quinn) scores,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “Once we got it tied, they lost their nerves and they just went out there and played fearless and went after it and said, ‘We’re not going to lose this one.’”
NU blew an early 2-0 edge, a 6-5 halftime lead and a 7-6 advantage early in the second half as Duke rallied back to retake the lead on each occasion.
But after Stroup buried a point-blank shot off a brilliant feed from junior attacker Shelby Fredericks to tie the score at 8-8 with 13:15 to play, Quinn’s singlehanded effort jumpstarted a stretch in which the Cats scored three times in less than two minutes to open up an 11-8 lead, which they maintained comfortably to the final whistle.
“There were times when we moved it well in the first half, but on the whole I don’t think we did a great job,” Amonte Hiller said. “In the second half, we were able to find some ball movement and find some looks out of the ball movement.”
The second-half turnaround correlated with an improvement in the circle — Fredericks and her teammates controlled just 5-of-12 draws in the first half but 9-of-14 in the second half — and also a steady lakeshore wind, which blew northward in the Cats’ favor after halftime.
Sophomore goaltender Mallory Weisse’s in-game turnaround also played a large role. After allowing Duke to score on five of its first six shot attempts, Weisse made an impressive stop late in the first half for her first save of the game and went on to make four more after the break.
“First half, we got unlucky on a few penalty shots; there was a lot of calls on the eight-meter (line),” Weisse said. “The defense was really giving me the shots I wanted to see in the second half.”
Senior attacker and leading scorer Christina Esposito was tightly guarded by Duke all day long and, for the first time this season, did not score in the game. Nevertheless, the offensive slack was picked up by Stroup as well as Fredericks and sophomore attacker Liza Elder, who has now scored multiple goals in three straight games.
The win keeps NU in safe position in regard to the NCAA Tournament, which requires teams to have a .500 record or better to qualify. The Cats need two more wins to guarantee that they meet that benchmark, and have two more regular season games and the Big Ten Tournament to do so.
“They now know what their potential is, and I think that’s exciting,” Amonte Hiller said. “They were fatigued, and they just dug really deep.”