Northwestern Opens With Rout of UMass
from staff reports
LOS ANGELES — Northwestern, ranked third in the preseason by Lacrosse Magazine, looked every bit like the defending NCAA champions in its 2013 season-opener, cruising past No. 14 Massachusetts, 16-4, Friday at USC's McAlister Field in Los Angeles. Junior Alyssa Leonard won nine draw controls and classmate Kelly Rich led the Wildcats with a career-best four goals against her homestate university in the victory.
Senior attacker Amanda Macaluso also was sharp with three goals and one assist while Taylor Thornton, Christy Turner and Ali Cassera all netted two goals apiece. On the other end of the field, sophomore goalkeeper Bridget Bianco recorded six saves in her first career start and victory between the pipes.
Thornton, the returning national player of the year, netted the Wildcats' first goal of the season 70 seconds into the contest when she created her own shot and converted -- nearly matching her effort in Northwestern's 2012 debut when she scored just 32 seconds into the season-opener at Stanford. Minutewomen goalkeeper Rachel Vallarelli and her defense would keep NU off the scoreboard for the next 12 minutes before Rich ended the drought with a free position tally. Rich and Erin Fitzgerald would make it three consecutive 8-meter scores for the 'Cats over the next six minutes, and Cassera set the score at 5-1 off a feed from behind the cage by Leonard.
With NU in front 6-2 and less than 90 seconds remaining before halftime, the Wildcats kept their foot on the pedal and scored three rapid-fire goals to create a seven-goal differential at the intermission. Turner started the spurt by getting into the attack and dodging by her defender, burying the fourth goal of her career. Cassera and Macaluso would then score just six seconds apart to set the tone entering the second half.
Taking a break from her dominance in the draw circle, where she was responsible for nine of NU's 16 draw control wins for the day, Leonard tallied the first goal of the second half off a feed by Macaluso, who also accounted for NU's next goal six minutes later.
Thornton answered a UMass goal at the 18-minute mark with an unassisted effort, and Leonard hooked up with Rich only 15 seconds later to essentially put the game out of reach.
Senior Beatrice Conley dished out a pair of assists over the final 11 minutes of the game, first finding Kara Mupo before hitting Rich for NU's last score of the day with 4:09 to play.
Head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller moved to within three victories of recording her 200th win, improving her career mark in 11-plus seasons with the 'Cats to 197-30.
On Saturday, Northwestern will welcome Division I-newcomer Southern Cal to varsity status when the 'Cats meet USC -- coached by former NU All-American and assistant coach Lindsey Munday -- in the historic L.A. Memorial Coliseum. Opening draw is set for 5 p.m.
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