Rich's four goals power Northwestern's offense as Wildcats rout Massachusetts
LOS ANGELES -- Top-ranked Northwestern looked every bit like the defending NCAA champion in its 2013 season opener, cruising past No. 14 Massachusetts 16-4 on Friday at USC's McAlister Field. Junior Alyssa Leonard won nine draw controls and classmate Kelly Rich led the Wildcats with a career-best four goals.
Senior attacker Amanda Macaluso also was sharp with three goals and one assist while Taylor Thornton, Christy Turner and Ali Cassera all netted two goals apiece. On the other end of the field, sophomore goalkeeper Bridget Bianco recorded six saves in her first career start and victory between the pipes.
Thornton, the returning national player of the year, netted the Wildcats' first goal of the season 70 seconds into the contest when she created her own shot and converted -- nearly matching her effort in Northwestern's 2012 debut when she scored just 32 seconds into the season opener at Stanford.
Minutewomen goalkeeper Rachel Vallarelli and her defense kept Northwestern off the scoreboard for the next 12 minutes before Rich ended the drought with a free position score. Rich and Erin Fitzgerald made it three consecutive eight-meter scores for the 'Cats during the next six minutes, and Cassera set the score at 5-1 off a feed from behind the cage by Leonard.
With Northwestern in front 6-2 and less than 90 seconds remaining before halftime, the Wildcats kept their foot on the pedal and scored three rapid-fire goals to create a seven-goal differential at the intermission. Turner started the spurt by getting into the attack and dodging by her defender, burying the fourth goal of her career. Cassera and Macaluso then score just six seconds apart to set the tone entering the second half.
Taking a break from her dominance in the draw circle, where she was responsible for nine of Northwestern's 16 draw-control wins for the day, Leonard recorded the first goal of the second half off a feed by Macaluso, who also accounted for Northwestern's next goal six minutes later.
Thornton answered a UMass goal at the 18-minute mark with an unassisted effort, and Leonard hooked up with Rich only 15 seconds later to put the game out of reach.
Senior Beatrice Conley dished out a pair of assists during the final 11 minutes of the game, first finding Kara Mupo before hitting Rich for Northwestern's last score of the day with 4:09 to play.
Head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller moved to within three victories of recording her 200th win, improving her career mark in 11-plus seasons with the 'Cats to 197-30.