April 3, 2009


Courtesy of Northwestern

EVANSTON, Ill. – Senior Hannah Nielsen (Adelaide, Australia/Brighton Secondary) had already cemented her claim as one of the top lacrosse players in the country, and now she enters the debate as one of the greatest of all time. Nielsen dished out a pair of assists on the evening, surpassing fellow Australian Jen Adams as the NCAA’s all-time assist leader in helping the top-ranked Wildcats to a 13-7 victory over fourth-ranked Duke at Lakeside Field.

With the Blue Devils (9-3) holding a 3-2 advantage, Nielsen fed senior Meredith Frank (Westwood, Mass./Westwood) in front of the cage, with Frank one-timing the pass past Duke goalkeeper Kim Imbesi with 6:38 remaining in the opening half to sit alone atop the all-time assist chart.

“I’m thrilled for her,” said head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. “She is an incredible player and has worked so hard for us over the past few years.  She is such a mature, dedicated player and deserves this record.”

But in the early going, it appeared the Blue Devils might play spoiler on Nielsen’s big night in front of over 1,300 fans, jumping out to a 3-0 lead behind a pair of goals from Carolyn Davis midway through the first half, the largest deficit for the Wildcats this season.

An unassisted goal by junior Katrina Dowd (Yorktown Heights, N.Y./Yorktown) with 13:51 left in the opening stanza seemed to be just the spark Northwestern would need, as senior Hilary Bowen (Rochester, N.Y./Brighton) would cut the Blue Devil lead to 3-2 with 11:09 before Frank’s record-setting goal from Nielsen at 6:38 knotted the game at three apiece. Frank would net another just 23 seconds later, giving the ‘Cats the lead for the first time in the contest.

Northwestern and Duke would exchange goals over the final four minutes of the opening half, as a goal from Nielsen and another from Bowen with just 48 seconds left gave the Wildcats a slim 6-5 halftime lead.

The Blue Devils would strike first in the second half, tying the game once again off a goal from Sarah Bullard with 25:07 remaining, but that is as close as Duke would get to staging the upset. The Wildcats rattled off six unanswered, including three from Bowen and two more from Dowd to break the game open at 12-6 with 13:47 remaining. The Blue Devils staged one last comeback attempt, closing the gap to 12-7 with 7:25 left, but freshman Jessica Russo (Port Jefferson, N.Y./St. Anthony’s) put the nail in the coffin with an unassisted goal at 3:03 to preserve the victory.

Bowen once again led the offensive charge for the Wildcats, netting five goals as Northwestern improves to 11-0 on the year and extended its home winning streak to 48 games. Dowd and Frank each added a hat trick while Nielsen finished with three points (1G, 2A) and junior Danielle Spencer (Rochester, N.Y./Brighton) added a pair of assists as well.

The ‘Cats held a 34-23 shot advantage and won the draw control battle 15-7, including an 8-2 edge in the second half which helped turn the tide of the game. Both goalkeepers were up to the task as well, with senior Morgan Lathrop (Briarcliff, N.Y./Hackley School) notching nine saves.

Nielsen now wears the title as the sport’s all-time assist queen, as in addition to holding the NCAA career mark with 180, she also holds the single-game assist record (10 at Duquesne back in February) and is tied for the single-season record (69 in 2007). She, along with Bowen, extends her consecutive point streak to 55 games, while Bowen recorded her 51st consecutive game with a goal.

The Wildcats are now 5-2 all-time against Duke and have won the last four meetings between the two schools. Northwestern is also 3-0 all-time against the Blue Devils at Lakeside Field.

Northwestern now gets ready to welcome California (5-7) to Evanston for a 1 p.m. draw on Sunday, April 5. NU has won each of the previous five meetings against the Golden Bears, including a 16-9 victory in last year’s season opener, and is 2-0 all-time against Cal in Evanston.