Pressure Defense Fuels Northwestern Over Penn State
from press release
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Top-ranked Northwestern was the beneficiary of 14 turnovers by No. 12 Penn State and turned defense into offense, doubling up the Nittany Lions 14-7 Friday night in University Park, Pa. Senior Shannon Smith led a balanced Wildcats attack with five goals and one assist while Kara Mupo and Ali Cassera each added a pair.
NU, which improved to 3-0 in American Lacrosse Conference play, outshot the hosts by a 30-18 margin while goalkeeper Brianne LoManto turned in an eight-save performance, six of which came in the first half. Penn State was held without a goal for the first 19:50 of the game.
"We focused this entire week on being able to control the game and momentum and lock down possession to give the defense a little bit of a break," Smith said. "I thought the defense played amazing, Breezey made some huge saves, point-blank saves, in the first half. Our midfielders and defenders are great at getting those caused turnovers and converting them into fast breaks for the offense." Smith put Northwestern ahead three minutes into the game with a dodge down the right of the fan and a shot past 2011 ALC Goalkeeper of the Year Dana Cahill. After an NU defensive stand on the other end, Smith earned an 8-meter attempt and, after her initial shot was saved, scooped up the rebound and put it away to give NU a 2-0 lead at the 18:45 mark.
Both goalkeepers came up with saves on free position attempts on the next two possessions and the score remained 2-0 for the next eight minutes. Smith broke the drought and completed her hat trick at the 10:54 mark after Casey Bocklet patiently directed the offense and fed Smith from behind the crease.
Penn State finally got on the scoreboard with 10:10 to go in the first half but Erin Fitzgerald quickly restored a three-goal Wildcats advantage off a free position attempt, her 27th tally of the season.
A Northwestern turnover with 7:30 to play gave Penn State possession and later an 8-meter attempt, which Tatum Coffey finished for the Nittany Lions to cut their deficit to two. It didn't remain there long as Ali Cassera came free off a curl and finished off her dodge down the center to make it 5-2 with just over six minutes before half.
Northwestern won the draw and let Bocklet go to work behind the cage, where she created an opening off the crease and scored her ninth of the season. PSU was able to answer on the other end, but a nice underhand shot by Smith gave the NU senior her fourth of the day and the Wildcats a 7-3 advantage.
NU took that lead into halftime and saw it grow to 8-3 just 27 seconds into the second stanza when Taylor Thornton dodged hard to the right, beat two defenders and dropped a low shot past PSU's Cahill. Two minutes later, the Wildcats took advantage of a person-up opportunity as Fitzgerald dished to Kara Mupo off a free position attempt for Mupo's 21st of the season.
Penn State broke through with a goal eight minutes into the second half but Northwestern continued to dictate the action. With seven minutes to go, a caused turnover at one end by Christy Turner quickly led to a Kat DeRonda fast-break goal on the other side, making her the seventh NU player to score on the evening.
It was a similar scoring formula on the ensuing series, with Alex Frank grabbing an errant PSU pass, feeding Amanda Macaluso on the break, which immediately led to a Fitzgerald score, giving the 'Cats their largest lead at 11-4.
The hosts managed to overcome more terrific defensive pressure by Northwestern, pulling within five off an Elaine Welch free position goal with 8:53 remaining. The Wildcats countered when Cassera notched her second of he day off a feed by Smith, and Northwestern soon began taking time off the clock with a 12-7 lead and seven minutes to go. A late Mupo 8-meter goal lifted the advantage to six while Smith's 40th goal of the year accounted for all the scoring on the day.
Thornton led Northwestern with four draw controls, helping NU win that category by a slim 12-11 margin.
Northwestern now makes the trip across the Keystone State to battle the eighth-ranked University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Start time at Penn's Franklin Field is set for 11 a.m. CT Sunday.
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