Northwestern wins seventh NCAA title
Thornton and Fitzgerald score late goals to lead Wildcats
STONY BROOK, N.Y. -- Northwestern's has built a dynasty that rivals any in sports at the moment.
Goals from junior midfielders Taylor Thornton and Erin Fitzgerald in the game's last 10 minutes helped Northwestern to an 8-6 victory against Syracuse on Sunday, giving the Wildcats their seventh national championship in the past eight years.
It did not come without the underdog Orange giving the defending national champions and heavily favored and No. 2-ranked Wildcats (21-2) a run for their money.
Syracuse (19-4) jumped ahead with two quick goals in the first 3:20.
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Northwestern stabilized, but Syracuse managed to keep a slim advantage with quick responses after ever Wildcat goal for the first 21 minutes.
Syracuse's leading scorer, sophomore attack Alyssa Murray, who also led the nation with 73 goals coming into Sunday night's championship game, was invisible in the first half.
It was the same story for Northwestern's senior attack Shannon Smith, who, for the first 24 minutes of the game, was blanketed at all times by a Syracuse defender.
However, the Wildcats senior had an assist on the tying goal with five minutes to go in the first half and then followed with a slick underhand shot that found the back of the net, giving Northwestern its first lead of the night with 2:31 to go in the first.
With Syracuse's aggressive play threatening to bury Northwestern early, the draw controlling ability of Northwestern's Alyssa Leonard gave the defending champions plenty of opportunities to build offensive attacks.
Northwestern began to dominate the game in the second half, but Syracuse's sophomore goalie Alyssa Costantino kept the Orange in the game. She made eight saves on the night.
Costantino's opposite, senior Brianne LoManto, also made some fine saves to keep Northwestern ahead.
It was not until 11 minutes were gone in second half that Northwestern was able to build on its lead, and it was Smith who sent a shot into the top left corner of the net to finally beat Costantino.
Murray finally showed her All-American talents, taking her shot from a free position just one minute after Smith's to cut the deficit to one.
Northwestern was content to hold the ball, facilitating play from behind the net, taking few chances. Costantino was up to the initial challenges, denying two shots from Smith, and after six straight minutes with possession, a goal from Northwestern's Erin Fitzgerald was wiped away due to a charge with 11:45 to play.
Junior attack Michelle Tumolo tied the game for Syracuse at 6-6 after a quick flick of the wrist as she meandered from behind the goal.
That was all Northwestern would give to the Orange as Thornton and Fitzgerald's tallies provided just enough cushion.
Syracuse head coach Gary Gait received a yellow card for going out onto the field to argue a call, snuffing out whatever comeback hopes the Orange had.