No. 6 Northwestern Topples the Top-Ranked Tar Heels

EVANSTON, Ill. -- After winter weather forced No. 7 Northwestern to postpone its 2014 debut at Lakeside Field by more than a month, the Wildcats were hardly bothered by waiting one more day.

What was supposed to be a Sunday showdown against defending NCAA champion and undefeated North Carolina turned into a Monday matinee because of travel issues encountered by the visitors, but NU (6-3) retained their focus and executed a flawlessly assembled game plan to upset No. 1 UNC, 7-5, this afternoon in Evanston.

In the process of ending the defending champions' (11-1) 15-game winning streak, Northwestern also secured a victory against the team that knocked NU out of the 2013 NCAA semifinals and snapped the Wildcats' streak of title game appearances at eight.

The event carried significance on a few other historical fronts: on the same day the Wildcats hosted the nation's No. 1-ranked team for the first time in Kelly Amonte Hiller's 13 years at the helm, Northwestern also achieved the 300th all-time victory in program history. Amonte Hiller has been on the sideline for 221 of those wins (221-36), while 79 came in the early era of Northwestern women's lacrosse (1982-92).

For this particular win, the 'Cats used a patient, ball-control offense to limit scoring opportunities for the high-powered Tar Heels, who arrived in Evanston averaging 18.5 goals and 35.8 shots per game. On Monday, they accumulated less than a third of both totals, tallying five goals and 12 shots.

"We wanted to neutralize their offense because they're very potent offensively," Amonte Hiller said. "Obviously Kerri Harrington marked up (UNC's) Aly Messinger and Haydyn Anigian did a great job on Abbey Friend -- and UNC's not a two-man show, it was great team defense, but those were definitely two focal points for us to start with."

Senior Alyssa Leonard scored all four of her points (3 goals, 1 assist) in the first half to lead Northwestern to a 5-2 advantage at the break, while Kaleigh Craig netted one unassisted goal in each period to support the NU attack. Seniors Kelly Rich and Kat DeRondarounded out Northwestern's list of goal-scorers.

"Alyssa is no stranger to big games and she thrives on this type of environment, so we know we can always count on her," said Amonte Hiller of her senior Tewaaraton Award candidate.

At the other end, returning All-American goalkeeper Bridget Bianco came up with all the clutch stops she needed, saving six of the 11 shots that the Tar Heels put on target to help the Wildcats lead from start to finish.

Northwestern got off to the start it envisioned when on its first possession, Leonard slipped free on the crease when her defender tripped to the ground and scored on a feed by Christy Turner for the game's first goal. Three minutes later, Craig made it 2-0 with a left-handed shot from the middle of the fan for her 18th score of the season.

After Maggie Bill put the Tar Heels on the board, Leonard notched her second goal of the day when a shot by Craig was saved by UNC netminder Caylee Waters and recovered by Leonard for the quick rebound score at the 19:47 mark. Six minutes later, another lengthy Northwestern possession resulted in Leonard completing a hat trick off a pretty feed from fellow senior Kelly Rich.

Two key saves by Bianco, including one on a free position, allowed Northwestern to maintain a two-goal lead as time ticked down in the first half. With 10 seconds left in the frame, Rich attempted to feed Leonard on the crease, drawing Waters out of her cage. Leonard came away from the scrum with the loose ball and slipped it home for her third goal and a momentum swing in NU's favor entering the break.

1 2    Next  »


Create a free lacrosse website