May 22, 2010

*Courtesy of Northwestern Athletics

EVANSTON, Illinois - Northwestern has spent the past two Memorial Day weekends in Towson, Md., and now it will get to do it again. The second-ranked Wildcats left little doubt in their quarterfinal match-up with fifth-ranked Duke, notching the game's first 10 goals en route to an 18-8 victory at Lakeside Field. The win was the 22nd consecutive for Northwestern in the NCAA tournament, breaking Maryland's previous mark of 21 from 1995-2001.

"Our game plan was to set the tone early, and it played out just the way we wanted it to," said head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. "Our girls were really looking forward to this game, and it was probably the best half of lacrosse we've played all season. We're so excited to be heading back to the final four this weekend. It's an incredible time of year."

Senior Danielle Spencer (Rochester, N.Y./Brighton), playing in her final game at Lakeside Field, made sure it was a memorable one. She notched a game-high six points on four goals and two assists while winning four draw controls. Freshman Erin Fitzgerald (Mt. Sinai, N.Y./Mt. Sinai) continued her hot streak, matching Spencer with four goals with two ground balls and two draw controls.

Another milestone was set on the day as senior Katrina Dowd (Yorktown Heights, N.Y./Yorktown) recorded three goals in her final game in Evanston, bringing her career postseason total to 42 and surpassing former teammate Hilary Bowen as the all-time leader in the NCAA tournament. Dowd added an assist to finish with four points on the day, complimented by two ground balls and a pair of draws.

Two other Wildcats notched hat tricks on the day as sophomore Shannon Smith (West Babylon, N.Y./West Babylon) and freshman Amanda Macaluso (Smithtown, N.Y./Hauppauge) each found the back of the net three times. Sophomore Alexandra Frank (Westwood, Mass./Westwood) also tallied a goal with Smith and sophomore Lacey Vigmostad (Northport, N.Y./Northport) each adding an assist to the Northwestern attack.

But perhaps the player who had the biggest impact for the Wildcats was sophomore goalkeeper Brianne LoManto (Miller Place, N.Y./Rocky Point), who finished with a career-best 12 saves against the Blue Devils. LoManto turned aside a pair of Duke shots in the opening minutes of the game, which helped spark the Northwestern offensive charge.

With the defense keeping the Blue Devils off the scoreboard, the Wildcat offense put the game away early. 10 unanswered goals through the opening 23 minutes, including three from Spencer and a pair from both Fitzgerald and Smith, squashed any thoughts of a Duke upset as Northwestern built a commanding 13-2 halftime lead.

The Blue Devils came out with more intensity in the second half, scoring four of the first five goals in the second to cut the Northwestern advantage to eight at 14-6. But three straight Wildcat goals slammed the door on the Blue Devils' season and gave Northwestern its second victory of the season against Duke. The 'Cats have now won six-straight over the Blue Devils, improving to 7-2 all-time in the series.

Over 1,200 fans came out to a watch the quarterfinal showdown on a mild, but foggy day at Lakeside Field, giving Northwestern an average attendance of just under 950, which led the nation. With a minute remaining in the game and the Wildcats maintaining possession, the crowd gave their 'Cats a standing ovation for the final 60 seconds of regulation.

Those that were unable to attend the quarterfinal victory can catch the rebroadcast of the game on the Big Ten Network, beginning at 8:30 p.m. CT Saturday evening.

Up next for Northwestern is the much-anticipated rematch with third-ranked North Carolina at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, Md. The Tar Heels, who defeated Virginia 17-7 to advance to the Final Four, are the only team to best the Wildcats this season, taking an 18-16 decision in Evanston on April 18. That game will be the second semifinal game Friday, May 28 and is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. CT and will be televised live on CBS College Sports Network.