Northwestern Edges Syracuse to Claim Seventh Championship

Nearly midway through the first half, NU cut into the deficit when Smith -- who dealt with a faceguard much of the night -- finally was able to control the ball and set up shop on offense, feeding a cutting Erin Fitzgerald for a goal to set the score at 3-2. Fitzgerald then rang her next shot off the post, and the Orange were able to earn and convert another 8-meter opportunity on their ensuing possession to restore a two-goal edge.

Another draw control win for Alyssa Leonard returned the ball to the Wildcats and NU's Amanda Macaluso was able to put away the Wildcats' first free position chance of the game to pull NU to within one, 4-3. Northwestern drew level on its next possession when Smith fed Casey Bocklet off a free position restart at the 5:59 mark and, four minutes later, took its first lead when Smith dropped to the underhand to fire a low shot past Constantino for her first goal of the night.

Coming out of halftime, Constantino made three straight saves on Northwestern's opening possession of the second half -- the first two on free position attempts -- to keep the Wildcat advantage at one. Northwestern remained patient on offense, however, often waiting to get the ball to the closely guarded Smith to set up its offense. Smith took care of the rest to score NU's next goal, backing down her defender and slinging one home at the 19:07 mark of the second half.

A goal less than a minute later by Alyssa Murray on the free position made it 6-5 Northwestern, and the Wildcats were kept in check over the next six minutes by more timely goalkeeping by SU's Constantino. A pair of Tewaaraton Award finalists then made their presence known, beginning with SU's Michelle Tumolo's wrapping of the crease for her first point of the night with 11:08 remaining.

Player of the-Year finalist Thornton had the answer for NU, however, coming back on the next Wildcat possession determined to create a chance for her team. Thornton did just that, racing across the fan and ripping a shot home to give the Wildcats the lead for good.

With the Orange beginning to pressure out on defense in an effort to regain possession, Fitzgerald saw an opportunity to run by her defender and whipped a shot across her body to provide Northwestern a two-goal cushion with 5:41 to play.

Syracuse mounted a threat on the other end, but saw a free position opportunity erased when an illegal stick was detected with 3:16 remaining to turn the ball back over to NU. Northwestern used its speed and stick skills to protect the ball down the stretch and secure the two-goal win and a 2012 NCAA championship.

* * * *

STONY BROOK, N.Y. – No. 4 Syracuse's historical season came to an end with an 8-6 setback to No. 2 Northwestern in the 2012 NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship final game. The Orange, which was playing in the title game for the first time in school history, finishes the year with a record of 19-4.

“It's not the way we wanted to end our season,” said Syracuse head coach Gary Gait. “I'm proud of my team. They never gave up. They played all the way through. We learned a lot – the first time in the championship game. They were determined. They overcame a lot to get here. I'm just very proud of them and what they accomplished this year.”

The Orange took an early lead on back-to-back goals by sophomores Katie Webster (Syracuse, N.Y.) and Amy Cross (Oreland, Pa.). After Northwestern tallied its first goal of the game, senior Sarah Holden (Marcellus, N.Y.) converted a free position attempt for her fifth goal of the Final Four at the 15:41 mark. The Wildcats answered on Erin Fitzgerald's goal, but a free position goal by freshman Kailah Kempney (Carthage, N.Y.) put Syracuse up by two with 10:15 remaining. Amanda Macaluso found the back of the net at the 8:45 mark, sparking Northwestern on a 3-0 scoring run to end the half as it took a 5-4 lead into the locker room at halftime.

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