May 5, 2013

Wildcats Flip Script on Florida, Stifle Gators 8-3

from press release

BALTIMORE — Armed with a terrific game plan, fourth-ranked Northwestern took the field against No. 2 Florida Sunday in Baltimore for the American Lacrosse Championship title game and executed it to perfection, bottling up the Gators en route to an 8-3 upset win and their sixth ALC crown in seven years.

In this the third straight year that the 'Cats and Gators have met to decide the ALC Championship, NU dictated possession from start to finish, winning 10 of 13 draw controls — including seven straight to open the game — and outshooting Florida by a substantial 24-9 margin. The Gators, who defeated Northwestern by a score of 22-4 just two weeks ago in Gainesville, were held 21 shots and nearly 13 goals below their season per-game averages.

"We were fired up to play today but it was a different kind of hyped up, it was more of a laser focus before the game and you could see it in everybody's eyes when you looked around," said junior Alyssa Leonard, who on Sunday set the Northwestern single-season record for draw controls as she hauled in seven to bring her 2013 total to 112. "What happened in the regular season was humbling, but today we were all ready to play and we weren't going to let what happened last time affect this game."

Two more juniors, Kat DeRonda and Kelly Rich, spearheaded a judicious Northwestern attack all afternoon, with DeRonda netting her second career hat trick and adding one assist while Rich recorded two goals and one helper. Leonard scored twice to go along with her seven draw controls, while ALC Championship MVP Gabriella Flibotte posted three draw controls and two caused turnovers in the defensive midfield. Leonard, DeRonda and seniors Ali Cassera and Taylor Thornton each were named to the ALC's All-Tournament squad following the game.

In what would become a familiar refrain, Leonard controlled the opening draw to herself and help the Wildcats set up shop on attack, where a defensive breakdown eventually allowed Kat DeRonda to feed Kelly Rich for the game's first goal just over two minutes in.

After the Gators turned it over on their first possession, Florida was able to score on a free position and again on a pass to Caroline Chesterman on the crease as they took a 2-1 lead nine minutes in.

But Northwestern's dominance on the draw continued to allow the Wildcats to dictate possession, and NU eventually tied the score when a missed shot by Amanda Macaluso was backed up by Rich, who quickly fed it to DeRonda in front of the cage for the goal. Two minutes later, Northwestern committed a turnover only to have Jess Carroll immediately get it back on the re-defend, and Leonard took a headlong pass before finishing past Meagher to make it 3-2 Wildcats.

After another lengthy Northwestern possession ended in a turnover, the Gators seemed poised to tie the game with a fast-break shot by Sydney DuPre before Bridget Bianco made her first save of the afternoon. It was more of the same a few minutes later when a Gators possession lasted a brief 30 seconds before Bianco denied a shot attempt by UF's Shannon Gilroy with 3:10 left first half.

The second half opened with a familiar sight as Leonard self-controlled the draw but was immediately fouled, and a yellow card given on the play gave the Wildcats a man-up opportunity. Northwestern then cashed in as DeRonda fired an 8-meter goal past Meagher, lifting NU to its first two-goal lead of the day.

The goalkeepers kept the score at 4-2 as they traded saves on free position attempts, but Northwestern would register a critical next goal when junior Kate Macdonald found an opening while dodging to her right and beat Meagher for her second goal of the year at the 23:22 mark of the second half.

Florida received another big save by Meagher and managed to break its scoreless drought with a goal by Ashley Bruns, cutting NU's lead to two. But it was DeRonda who denied Florida any momentum as she mirrored Macdonald's cut across the fan and slung a sidearm shot under Meagher to complete her hat trick.

Leonard cemented Northwestern's advantage on the ensuing play, winning the draw control and dishing it off before receiving it back at goalline extended and dodging directly to the cage for her second goal of the day -- just 17 seconds after DeRonda's -- as Northwestern built a four-goal advantage.

NU kept humming offensively, regaining possession and extending their lead to five when Macaluso calmly fed Rich from behind the cage for NU's eighth and final goal of the day at the 11:32 mark of the second half. The Gators were forced to begin pressuring out defensively after that, but three yellow cards issued to the Gators in the final 11:06 hampered Florida's ability to win back possession down the stretch.

Northwestern held a 13-10 edge in ground balls on the afternoon and was able to preserve its lead on the scoreboard thanks to only one second-half turnover after committing eight miscues in the opening 30 minutes.

Tonight, Northwestern will learn its seeding and opening-round schedule for the 2013 NCAA Tournament when the bracket is announced at 8 p.m. CT on NCAA.com. Visit the women's lacrosse page on NUsports.com in coming days for game and ticket information.


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