Late Run by No. 13 Notre Dame Upends No. 4 Northwestern

LAKE BARRINGTON, Ill. -- In a match-up of two teams very familiar with one another's styles, No. 4 Northwestern (3-1, 0-0 ALC) fell on the short end of a 9-8 outcome against 13th-ranked Notre Dame (4-2, 2-2 ACC) late Wednesday at the indoor Lake Barrington Field House. Northwestern shook off a sluggish first half to gain an 8-6 lead late in the contest, but the Irish controlled possession over the final four minutes and scored the last three goals of the night.

The win by the Irish snapped a string of 14 consecutive wins in the series by Northwestern, a run that dated back to April 20, 2004.

Senior Alyssa Leonard led NU on attack with three goals while Kate Macdonald netted a pair. Sophomore Kaleigh Craig also chipped in two points on one goal and one assist.

A goal by Notre Dame freshman Cortney Fortunato just 11 seconds after the opening whistle indicated that the game might turn into a high-scoring affair, but it was anything but through the first 30 minutes. After Fortunato's goal, both teams were kept off the scoreboard for the next 12 and a half minutes of action until Brie Custis gave the visitors a two-goal lead at the 17:17 mark.

Northwestern's first goal came courtesy of an Alyssa Leonard underhand shot just over a minute later. But turnovers hampered the Wildcats offensively for the duration of the first half and Leonard's goal proved to be NU's lone tally before intermission.

Aiming to erase their 3-1 halftime deficit, Northwestern began the second half with an excellent defensive stand and a goal on its first offensive possession, this time with Macdonald creating space in front of the goal and finishing for her sixth score of the season.

Notre Dame was issued a pair of yellow cards less than 50 seconds apart soon after, but Northwestern was forced to settle for one goal for and one allowed during the Wildcats extra-man opportunity. An 8-meter goal by Kara Mupo during the man advantage was the first of three straight free position scores by the 'Cats, with both Craig and Nancy Dunbar scoring to give NU its first lead (5-4) of the evening.

Two more Fighting Irish goals briefly restored the visitors' lead, but NU pulled level at six when Craig fed Leonard off a free position setup for an easy goal on the crease at the 11:01 mark. Macdonald and Leonard would both create their own scoring chances over the next four minutes, with Leonard bouncing a shot past goalkeeper Allie Murray at the 6:59 mark to put Northwestern in front, 8-6.

But Notre Dame, led by All-American Barbara Sullivan, found success on the draw circle and scored two straight goals in a span of 44 seconds to level the game at eight. With 1:16 remaining, Lauren Sullivan finished a feed from Casey Pearsall to give the Irish the lead back.

Northwestern freshman Sheila Nesselbush -- who finished with three ground balls, three draw controls and a caused turnover in the game -- claimed the ensuing draw and eventually helped the Wildcats earn a free position, but Notre Dame's Allie Murray recorded a game-clinching save in the waning seconds.

NU's netminder, Bridget Bianco, was equally as strong in the cage, matching Murray with eight saves including several at point blank range.

The Wildcats held the edge in draw controls for the game (11-8), while Notre Dame came away with 21 ground balls to Northwestern's 15.

Northwestern now turns its attention to American Lacrosse Conference play, opening league action Sunday at Ohio State before heading to Ann Arbor to take on Division I newcomer Michigan on Tuesday evening. Visit NUsports.com in the coming days for details on live video streams for both contests.

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2014-03-06



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