EVANSTON, Ill. — No. 1 Northwestern saw a five-goal advantage shrink to just one early in the second half of its American Lacrosse Conference opener against No. 11 Vanderbilt, but the Wildcats scored the next five goals to pull away and defeat the ‘Dores 13-6 Friday at Lakeside Field. Junior Erin Fitzgerald contributed a pair of free-position goals to that 5-0 run and finished with a team-best four scores on the day, while Brianne LoManto notched a season-high 10 saves between the pipes for NU.
Senior Shannon Smith scored three goals to surpass the 300-point plateau for her career and junior Taylor Thornton also netted a hat trick, helping the Wildcats win for the 11th consecutive time against the Commodores.
With periods of pouring rain disrupting the flow of the game early on, Smith was able to put the hosts on top just five minutes in when she worked off the crease for an unassisted goal, giving her exactly 300 points for her career and sole possession of third on the school’s all-time scoring list.
Five minutes later, Fitzgerald struck off a pass from behind the net by Casey Bocklet, a goal that was answered shortly thereafter by Vanderbilt’s Kendall Pittinger. With the rain making it difficult to even hold onto the ball, both teams were kept scoreless until Smith created for herself once again with 12:37 to go before half.
Sophomore Kara Mupo made it 4-1 Wildcats when she took a pass on the move in the open field from classmate Kate Macdonald and followed a wide-open lane to the goal for the tally, her 11th of the season. Northwestern made it four in a row with solo efforts by Smith and Thornton, but Vanderbilt was able to regain at least some momentum when Katie Mastropieri scored with 56 seconds to set the halftime score at 6-2.
Both teams managed to fire 10 shots in the opening half, but LoManto’s six first-half saves were key in allowing the Wildcats to keep the Commodores at bay.
With the stormy skies mostly cleared, Vanderbilt’s attack came awake out of halftime, with senior Ally Carey scoring on a free position just under two minutes into the frame. Two more goals with 90 seconds of each other by Vandy cut the Northwestern lead to just one with 23:26 to play, but Fitzgerald stemmed the tide with her back-to-back 8-meter goals.
That proved to be the first of four consecutive free position tallies by Northwestern as Lacey Vigmostad and Thornton followed suit, and a goal by Mupo set up by Bocklet capped off the 5-0 run that put Northwestern ahead, 11-6, with 10:42 remaining.
Vanderbilt would get just one more score the rest of the way as Northwestern successfully played keep-away for the final five minutes, seeing Thornton and Fitzgerald tack on late scores to complete the 13-6 win.
Thornton’s hat trick was complemented by stellar play on defense as she helped limit Carey, the All-American and Thornton’s teammate on the U.S. National Team, to just one free position goal and no assists on the afternoon. NU won eight draw controls in the second half to finish with a 13-8 advantage in that category and withstood a physical game in which Vandy was assessed 36 fouls and five yellow cards.
Northwestern also coaxed Vanderbilt into eight caused turnovers, including two each by Thornton and Ali Cassera.