Top-Ranked Northwestern Downs No. 19 JHU in ALC Semifinals

GAINESVILLE, FL - Top-ranked and defending national champion Northwestern defeated Johns Hopkins, 13-9, in the semifinals of the 2012 American Lacrosse Conference tournament Friday afternoon.

The Blue Jays slip to 9-9 on the season, while the Wildcats improve to 17-1 and advance to Saturday's championship game. Senior Alyssa Kildare and sophomore Taylor D'Amore were named to the ALC All-Tournament Team for their performances.

Hopkins took an early 3-1 lead on Northwestern before the Wildcats strung together a 9-1 run that bridged the first and second halves and saw the seven-time champions take a 10-4 lead. The Blue Jays battled back, cutting the deficit to four three times but the Wildcats twice scored empty-net goals to re-establish a five-goal advantage.

Erin Fitzgerald struck first for Northwestern, scoring on a left-alley dodge just 1:18 into the game. But Hopkins answered with three goals in less than three minutes to take a 3-1 lead. Senior Candace Rossi got the Blue Jays on the board when she dodged from left goal line extended an fired a shot past Brianne LoManto just 14 seconds later.

Senior Rachel Ballatorifollowed with a goal to put Hopkins on top. D'Amore fed a pass from behind the cage to Ballatori, who then cut from right goal line extended and snuck a shot inside the right post at 27:53. Rossi then converted a free position shot at 25:34 and Hopkins was on top 3-1.

The Wildcats responded with that 9-1 spurt and tied the game at three goals apiece with the help of back-to-back free position goals from Taylor Thornton and Fitzgerald just 50 seconds apart. Gabriella Flibotte put the 'Cats back on top at 23:55 on a right-alley dodge as NU scored three goals in 69 seconds to regain the lead.

Kat DeRonda added a goal at 21:31 and Northwestern led 5-3. The pace slowed from there as the Blue Jay defense kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard for more than 14 minutes. Shannon Smith ended the drought at 7:29 when she dodged from behind the cage and scored on a high-to-low shot.

Hopkins answered just 25 seconds later to make it a two-goal game at 6-4. Junior Monica Fischer fed a pass over the top of the cage to a cutting Sarah Taylor, who caught the ball in stride and buried her fourth goal in the last two games. Northwestern had the final say of the half, with goals from Christy Turner and Smith to go up 8-4 with 13.5 seconds to play.

Hopkins won the draw off Smith's goal and D'Amore had a chance at the buzzer in the slot, but LoManto was there to make the save and give her team a four-goal lead at the break.

The Wildcats picked up where they left off, scoring the first two goals of the second half to push out to a six-goal lead at 10-4 with 21:27 still to play. But Hopkins got two quick goals 24 seconds apart to trim the deficit to four. Freshman Jenna Kasmarik dodged from behind the cage and slipped a shot between LoManto and the left post for her sixth of the season.

Rossi then found sophomore Sammy Cermackin the left alley with a dump pass, and Cermack turned and blew a hard shot home. That's as close as the Blue Jays could get for the remainder of the game as the two teams traded goals over the final 10 minutes.

Rossi (2g, 1a) and Cermack (1g, 2a) finished with three points apiece for Hopkins, while D'Amore (2a), Taylor (2g) and Fischer (1g, 1a) had two points each. Junior Cosette Larash made one save in taking the loss, while freshman KC Emerson made three saves in the second half of relief. Smith scored a game-high four goals to pace Northwestern, with Fitzgerald and Thornton scoring two each. All of the Wildcat's goals were unassisted. LoManto finished with five saves for the win.


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