Cassera Comes Up Clutch for 'Cats
from press release
EVANSTON, Ill. -- It was a game of runs between
two of the most successful programs in women's lacrosse in recent
seasons, but No. 2 Northwestern put together a scoring spurt in
crunch time to distance itself from No. 8 Penn in a 14-10 victory
Sunday in front of 1,145 fans at Lakeside Field in Evanston.
Sophomore Ali Cassera netted a season-high three goals, including two in a span of less than three minutes early in the second half. Cassera's scores, along with a free position tally by sophomore Taylor Thornton helped NU stem the tide of a four-goal Quaker run to open the second stanza that had knotted the score at seven apiece.
"I thought it was great for Ali, she saw some openings, she was aggressive, and was able to finish her shots so that was helpful," said head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. "We wouldn't have been able to win the game without our draw control advantage, we still need to clean up some ground ball opportunities where Penn just came in and took it away from us. We just need a better focus overall to stick to what to the game plan is."
With the game tied and the Quakers threatening to seize a second-half lead, freshman Alyssa Leonard stepped up by winning four out of the next five draw controls on her way to eight for the afternoon, two off her season-best. That allowed the Wildcats the chance to record six of the next seven goals to put away their 12th win of the year and their fifth in a row against the Quakers.
Northwestern pounced on an early 4-0 lead thanks to some sharp-shooting, beginning with a free position goal by Amanda Macaluso just 30 seconds after the opening whistle. Two minutes later, Shannon Smith scored her 41st goal of the year and the first of two on the day off a pretty feed by Erin Fitzgerald.
Freshman Kara Mupo and sophomore Gabriella Flibotte accounted for the Wildcats' next two tallies, but Penn answered with three straight to cut its deficit 4-3 midway through the first.
Leonard got on the scoreboard with 15:48 to play before free position goals by Mupo and Cassera put an end to a scoreless draught of nearly nine minutes to give Northwestern a comfortable 7-3 advantage at the break.
It took just seven minutes in the second half for Penn to erase that lead, however, thanks largely to a trio of unassisted goals by Erin Brennan. But Cassera decided she had had enough, taking it upon herself to tear around the right corner of the defense and slot a shot past Penn's Emily Leitner to put the 'Cats back in front.
With the Wildcats nursing a 10-8 lead minutes later, Flibotte and Smith both converted free position attempts to restore a four-goal lead and allow Northwestern to spend the next series of possessions milking some of the 14 minutes still remaining. Junior goalie Brianne LoManto made two critical saves in that stretch and saw another Quaker blast ring off the post. LoManto went on to finish with a nine-save performance for the fourth time this season.
NU and Penn traded goals in the final four minutes, with the 'Cats getting scores off a nifty solo effort by Jessica Russo and an open-goal finish by Alex Frank.
Junior Maria Tedeschi set a career high with three caused turnovers in the game to lead the Northwestern defense.
Fans who were unable to make it out to Lakeside Field or watch the Big Ten Network's live telecast will have several chances to watch replays of the game on BTN, beginning at 10 p.m. CT Sunday with an encore presentation scheduled for 3 p.m. CT Monday.
After winning three straight home games against ranked opponents, Northwestern hits the road to face ALC foe Florida Thursday before traveling to take on Johns Hopkins Saturday.