EVANSTON, Ill. – Paced by a 15-5 advantage on draw controls, No. 2 Northwestern controlled possession and wore down eighth-ranked Notre Dame en route to a 12-7 victory in the first round of the NCAA tournament Saturday.
Sophomore Alyssa Leonard was the catalyst off the draw with eight on the afternoon, helping the Wildcats win for the 13th consecutive time against the Fighting Irish and for the 29th time in 31 all-time NCAA tournament games under head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller.
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In a game that was tied at three with less than three minutes before halftime, Northwestern (18-2) used its trademark high-pressure defense and benefited from 15 Irish turnovers to outscore its opponent 9-4 during the final 32-plus minutes. Saturday marked the fourth time since 2004 that Northwestern has ended Notre Dame’s season in the NCAA Tournament.
Sophomore Erin Fitzgerald led NU with three goals — including one with 49 seconds left before half and another just 1:23 after intermission to give the ‘Cats a three-goal lead — while ALC Player of the Year Taylor Thornton led all players with five ground balls.
The Wildcats advance to the NCAA quarterfinals for the ninth consecutive year where on May 19 they will host the winner of a first-round matchup between seventh-seeded Duke and Virginia to be played Sunday.