By Hayden Bird
FOXBOROUGH, MA – The defending National Champion Northwestern women’s lacrosse team finally found their offense against conference rivals Ohio State Saturday afternoon, and it was just in time to pull out a 13-12 comeback win before a roaring crowd at Gillette Stadium.
The game was one of 2012’s best so far. And it even ventured into overtime following a dramatic last-gasp goal from Northwestern junior Erin Fitzgerald.
It began as an unmitigated shootout, with both teams trading goal after goal. In fact, neither side could claim more than a one goal lead for the entire first half.
“Their goalie played amazing, she was awesome and a lot of the shots we took she just came up with big saves,” noted Northwestern senior Alex Frank afterwards.
And Ohio State’s talented freshman goalie, Tori DeScenza, did everything she could to help the 14th ranked Buckeyes upset number one Northwestern. Making 16 saves; she was far busier than her opponent.
Yet it was the Buckeyes who were the first team to truly seize the initiative, at least for a period of time.
Starting with 10 minutes to go in the first half and lasting until just inside the 20 minute mark of the second half, Ohio State went on a 7-2 run which culminated in team points leader Alayna Markwordt assisting Kirsten Donahue to give her team an 11-7 lead.
“Towards the beginning of the second half we made some careless mistakes,” said Northwestern Head Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. “They caused some great turnovers and Ohio State was really able to capitalize on the opportunities that they had.”
At that moment in the second half, it certainly seemed like an upset was in the air. Yet Northwestern, led by Amonte Hiller, have never been the type to give up.
“When we got ourselves in a hole, we got pretty motivated,” Amonte Hiller asserted. “And some of our players really stepped up and made big plays.”
The comeback didn’t really get underway for almost five minutes after Donahue’s goal however (an eternity in lacrosse time).
And even after the momentum began to swing in their favor and Fitzgerald scored with just over nine minutes remaining to cut the deficit to one (11-10), the Wildcats could not muster the actual tying goal until there was seemingly no time left on the clock.
Unfortunately for Ohio State though, Northwestern finally did score. After a series of penalties, Fitzgerald once again netted for Northwestern, and their fans predictably went wild. With only 19 seconds remaining, it capped off the momentum shift that had slowly but surely slipped away from Ohio State.
Once in overtime, Northwestern’s defending Tewaaraton Award-winner Shannon Smith came to life. As her team’s leader in goals and points, it was little surprise that in clutch time she was the one who delivered.
Scoring two consecutive goals (including one unassisted), Smith helped to put the game beyond reach.
Even still, Ohio State never quit. They scored on a beautifully executed breakaway as Cara Facchina found Jackie Cifarelli with 1:46 left in overtime to make the climax of the game that much more exciting. Yet, a series of penalties cost the Buckeyes and in the end, the Northwestern powerhouse survived, bringing their record to an impressive 10-0.
And for Amonte Hiller, it was a result that wasn’t great, but good enough.
“We didn’t make it pretty” she added with a wry smile, “but we did it.”