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Lacrosse: Esposito scores 5 goals as Northwestern routs Rutgers

Christina+Esposito+dodges+through+defenders.+The+senior+attacker+scored+5+goals+in+a+route+over+Rutgers+to+clinch+a+berth+in+the+Big+Ten+Tournament.+
Christina Esposito dodges through defenders. The senior attacker scored 5 goals in a route over Rutgers to clinch a berth in the Big Ten Tournament.

Christina Esposito dodges through defenders. The senior attacker scored 5 goals in a route over Rutgers to clinch a berth in the Big Ten Tournament.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Christina Esposito dodges through defenders. The senior attacker scored 5 goals in a route over Rutgers to clinch a berth in the Big Ten Tournament.

Ben Pope, Assistant Sports Editor

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Lacrosse


Needing a win to clinch a spot in the Big Ten Tournament and guarantee the .500-or-better record needed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, Northwestern’s Saturday game against Rutgers carried massive implications.

“This was huge,” senior attacker Christina Esposito said. “We said it all week that this was a playoff game for us. We said before the game that this is how we keep this family alive, by winning this game.”

And the Wildcats delivered.

After falling into an early 3-0 hole and facing a one-goal deficit at halftime, No. 15 NU (9-7, 4-1 Big Ten) dominated the Scarlet Knights (8-7, 2-3) throughout the second half, scoring 10 goals in the period, to roll to a convincing 14-7 win.

The Cats, who have suffered through their fair share of second-half struggles this season, have now rallied from second-half deficits to win in each of their last two games.

“That’s a good sign for us, to really start to be able to finish games and finish them with authority,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said.

Esposito bounced back from her first scoreless outing this season against Duke last week by ripping 5 goals past Rutgers goaltender Bianca Dente.

Senior midfielder Catie Ingrilli added a hat trick of her own. Junior attacker Nicole Beardsley and junior midfielder Sheila Nesselbush also each scored twice.

“Duke was in a face-guard (against me) and my teammates were able to handle it against Duke without my help, thank god,” Esposito said. “Today was more of a balance and I just found more openings. Our offense has gone 360 degrees from the beginning of the season.”

NU briefly fell victim to a hot start by the hosts, as Rutgers struck three times within the game’s opening five minutes. Amonte Hiller called a timeout and told the team it needed to wake up immediately.

The team responded. Ingrilli got the visitors on the board with a top-corner snipe off of a free position, and her teammates helped pull NU within 5-4 by halftime.

Junior attacker Shelby Fredericks, who also tallied nine draw controls on the day, then tied the game soon after the break with an aggressive drive to goal. Less than four minutes later, Nesselbush gave the Cats the lead for good.

Rutgers’ mere 13 shots on sophomore goaltender Mallory Weisse were the fewest NU has allowed since the season opener, and Amonte Hiller credited her team’s defense with giving the offense the chance to run away with the game.

“We talked a lot about ground balls and making sure we came up with them in the second half,” Amonte Hiller said. “We had some late possessions where we were able to clamp down on them and not allow a goal, so that was exciting and that gives the offense momentum too, so the two were playing off of each other.”

The efficiency on both ends ultimately equated to a win that potentially secures not one, but two post-season tournament appearances for the Cats.

“It’s just playing for our lives at this point and it’s really an awesome opportunity for us to have, to treat every game like it’s our last game,” Weisse said. “That gives our team a lot of momentum.”

Email: benjaminpope2019@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @benpope111

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