No. 4 Northwestern's Defense Prevails vs. No. 8 Penn State

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Facing a Penn State team fresh off an upset of the nation's No. 2-ranked team, No. 4 Northwestern handled its latest ALC test with relative ease en route to an 11-3 victory Friday night at Lakeside Field in Evanston.

The 'Cats (10-1), now 4-0 in ALC play with one conference game remaining, received a four-goal performance from senior Erin Fitzgerald while Alyssa Leonard and Taylor Thornton each netted a pair of goals on the evening.

Defensively, the Wildcats continuously frustrated a Nittany Lions attack that entered the evening averaging 14.0 goals per game; PSU took only 10 shots on the night, 19 fewer than its season per-game average.

Senior Gabriella Flibotte disrupted PSU with a trio of caused turnovers -- moving into ninth on NU's career list with 69 -- while juniorKate Macdonald made her second career appearance in the starting lineup and recorded a career-best four ground balls to go along with one caused turnover and her first goal of the season.

The win was the 15th straight for Northwestern against the visitors from State College.

"I think we put some pressure on them and took them out of their offense, shook them up a little bit and made them play faster than they wanted," said head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. "Our offense was able to give our defense a bit of a rest at times and then take advantage of our own opportunities."

Northwestern needed only 60 seconds to get on the scoreboard Friday night, with Fitzgerald striking first on a dodge from outside the fan. Penn State had the answer less than two minutes later on a quickstick goal by Molly Fernandez, the last goal the Nittany Lions would tally before going on a scoring drought of 26 minutes and 3 seconds.

NU took a 2-1 lead when senior Beatrice Conley orchestrated the Wildcats attack from behind the cage and eventually found a cutting Leonard for Leonard's 20th goal of the year, and two minutes later -- after goalkeeper Bridget Bianco caused a turnover for the 'Cats on 'D' -- Fitzgerald made it 3-1 with her first of three 8-meter goals on the evening.

After an unassisted Thornton tally set the count at 4-1, Northwestern continued tostymie Penn State defensively through the remainder of the first half while on offense, Amanda Macaluso set up freshman Nancy Dunbar's third goal of the year with 9:33 left before half. Late in the period, Penn State was robbed by Bianco on a golden scoring opportunity off an 8-meter restart, and freshman Kaleigh Craig made it a two-goal swing in NU's favor when she finished a lefthanded shot at the 2:12 mark to make it 6-1 Wildcats.

Leonard, who won five draw controls on the evening to pull within eight of Kristen Kjellman's career school record of 268, opened the scoring in the second half with a dodge to her left hand and sidearm finish less than five minutes out of the intermission. Fitzgerald then sandwiched a pair of 8-meter goals around a Penn State goal by Tatum Coffey, and the 'Cats found themselves in command with a 9-3 lead and 10:29 to play.

The Nittany Lions did themselves no favors in their attempt to make up ground, drawing three second-half yellow cards. NU was able to manage PSU's defensive pressure and received late goals from Thornton and Macdonald to account for the final score.

Fans who were unable to make it to Lakeside Field for the game can catch a replay of the contest at 11:00 a.m. CT Monday (April 8) on Big Ten Network.

After a 4-0 homestand at Lakeside Field, Northwestern heads out on the road this weekend for a challenging match-up with 11th-ranked Virginia in Charlottesville. Opening draw at Klockner Stadium is set for 6:00 p.m. CT.

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2013-04-05



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