No. 4 Northwestern Nips No. 8 Penn State in OT in ALC Semis

BALTIMORE, Md. -- After leading for nearly all of its American Lacrosse Conference semifinal showdown with No. 8 Penn State, No. 4 Northwestern nearly saw its hopes for a return to the tournament title game evaporate as the Nittany Lions had a chance to break an 8-8 tie in the final minute of regulation. But clutch plays by NU's senior leaders down the stretch lifted the Wildcats to a 9-8 overtime win and clinched a berth for the 'Cats in Sunday's championship game against No. 2 Florida.

Returning national player of the year Taylor Thornton caused a turnover at the defensive end to deny Penn State at the end of regulation, while fellow senior co-captain Amanda Macaluso provided the game-winning goal by wrapping the crease to score with 45 seconds left in the first of two overtime periods.

Thornton -- who finished with three caused turnovers on the evening -- and Macaluso tied as Northwestern's high scorers for the game with two goals apiece.

Senior Gabriella Flibotte helped NU control play with a career-high seven draw controls, including the first two in overtime. Flibotte also added a goal and a trio of caused turnovers and now claims sole possession of third on Northwestern's single-season caused turnovers record list with 39.

The Wildcats advanced to the ALC Tournament title game for the seventh time in the seven-year history of the event and will look to reclaim the league championship from a Florida squad that broke NU's five-year string of titles from 2007-11. Opening draw Sunday in Baltimore is set for 11:00 a.m. CT.

Friday marked the first overtime game and victory for Northwestern since a win over Ohio State at Gillette Stadium on March 31, 2012.

"I thought our defense played really well as a team and was able to cause some turnovers, especially down the stretch when we needed it," said head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. "It wasn't our best overall day of play but we had some moments and to beat a team the quality of Penn State in the postseason is always exciting."

Northwestern overcame six turnovers committed in the first 11 minutes and knotted the score at one apiece when Alyssa Leonarddodged to the cage from the goal-line extended and slipped her shot past Penn State goalkeeper Emi Smith. Both goalkeepers then traded saves before Thornton gave NU a 2-1 lead with a tremendous display of skill, spinning by two defenders to her off-hand and patiently placing her shot past Smith for her 23rd goal of the game.

NU went right back to its wheelhouse and once again set up Thornton with an isolation on the attack, and Thornton earned an 8-meter that led to a second straight goal for the senior. Off the ensuing draw control, Flibotte came off a foul restart in the midfield and headed straight to goal, scoring her ninth of the year and giving the Wildcats a 4-2 lead.

Penn State netted back-to-back goals to tie the game before a Macaluso caused turnover on defense promptly led to an Ali Casseragoal with 5:45 left before halftime. Over the next three minutes, Erin Fitzgerald and Kat DeRonda sandwiched 8-meter goals around a save by Bridget Bianco off a PSU free position try as Northwestern established a 7-4 lead.

Penn State cut that deficit to two at halftime and the teams traded goals in the opening five minutes of the second half, with Macaluso netting her 22nd of the season off a free position. Northwestern controlled possession over the next six minutes, but the Penn State defense held firm to keep the NU lead at two.

The Nittany Lions would then cut it to one, 8-7, thanks to Kelly Lechner's third goal of the evening at the 17:29 mark of the second half. Northwestern earned a crucial stop on the defensive end after that but had its own free position attempt saved at the other end as the clock crept closer to the 10-minute mark of the second half.

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2013-05-03



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