May 10, 2009

Courtesy of Northwestern

EVANSTON, Ill. -- It was a 21st birthday that junior Katrina Dowd (Yorktown Heights, N.Y./Yorktown) will never forget as Dowd netted a career-best seven goals in helping top-ranked Northwestern cruise to a 23-6 victory over Massachusetts in the opening round of the NCAA's Women's Lacrosse Championship. The Wildcats will now face a familiar opponent in the quarterfinals, as eighth-seeded Princeton visits Lakeside Field Saturday, May 16.

"I was pleased with the effort by the entire team this afternoon," head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said following the victory. "It was nice to have a full week to prepare for a game, something we haven't had in the last month or so. I thought our players came out energized and ready to play from the opening whistle, and I thought a lot of different players really stepped up today."

After defeating the Minutewomen (11-8) 22-5 earlier in the season in Amherst, NU used a similar game-plan this time around, using a fast-paced, aggressive game plan to jump out to an early 5-1 lead with less than seven minutes gone. Dowd notched a pair, including the game's first a mere 25 seconds in. UMass would score two of the next three to trim the lead to 6-3 with 21:27 to go in the first half.

But the Minutewomen's hopes of a first-round upset were quickly thwarted as the Wildcats reeled off eight unanswered goals, building a 14-3 advantage with just under 10 minutes to go in the half. Dowd would add three more goals during that span, with senior Mary Kate Casey (Chicago, Ill./Loyola Academy) notching two of her career-best three goals as well. Even freshman defender Lacey Vigmostad (Northport, N.Y./Northport) got in on the action, taking a feed from senior Hannah Nielsen (Adelaide, Australia/Brighton Secondary) at the top of the arc and found herself with a wide open lane to the goal.

Dowd would tally her sixth of the game with two seconds remaining in the opening stanza as NU enjoyed a comfortable 16-5 halftime edge. That advantage was due in large part to the Wildcats' domination of the opening half draw controls, winning 17 of 22, and outshooting the Minutewomen 25-13.

The second half proved to be more of the same as Northwestern notched the first four goals to build its advantage to 20-5 with 17:20 remaining. Sophomore Brooke Matthews (Baltimore, Md./Friends School) notched her second of the game with Nielsen adding her last two and Dowd capping her afternoon with a free position goal. The Santulli twins capped off the opening round victory as Kendall Santulli (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale) tallied a pair of goals and sister Samantha Santulli (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale) added one of her own.

In all, 10 different Wildcats found the back of the net and 14 players recorded points in the victory. Senior Meredith Frank (Westwood, Mass./Westwood) and freshmen Jessica Russo (Port Jefferson, N.Y./St. Anthony's) and Shannon Smith (West Babylon, N.Y./West Babylon) each tallied a goal while seniors Casey Donohoe (Jarrettsville, Md./Notre Dame Prep) and Meghan Plunkett (Towson, Md./Maryvale Prep), junior Danielle Spencer (Rochester, N.Y./Brighton) and freshman Alexandra Frank (Westwood, Mass./Westwood) all recorded assists.

Nielsen had another solid outing, netting four goals and adding a pair of assists to up her season point total to a nation's best 128 (59G, 69A). She also tied her own NCAA single-season assist record with 69 while extending her consecutive point streak to 64 games.

Draw controls continued to play a major factor in the Wildcat victory, as NU won 23 of 31 for the game while outshooting UMass 44-18, including a 19-5 advantage in the second half. Goalkeeper Morgan Lathrop (Briarcliff, N.Y./The Hackley School) allowed just six goals while making four saves on the afternoon for the `Cats.

The bright spot for the Minutewomen was the play of freshman goalkeeper Katie Florence, who recorded 15 saves on the afternoon, the most against the Wildcats this season. She bested the 12 she recorded against NU back on March 25, while scooping up three ground balls and causing a Wildcat turnover.

Three impressive streaks remained alive for the `Cats as Northwestern upped its winning streak to 26 games while clinching it's 53rd consecutive win at Lakeside Field. NU has also now won 17 consecutive NCAA tournament games, as the Wildcats are an amazing 18-1 in the tourney under Amonte Hiller. The 23 goals scored is also a new program-best in the tournament, surpassing the 19 goals scored against Holy Cross in the 2007 opening round.

NU now prepares for eighth-seeded Princeton (14-3) who defeated Georgetown 15-9. The Wildcats and Tigers have become quite familiar with each other, as this is the third time in five years the two teams will meet in the quarterfinals. Northwestern took an 8-6 decision over Princeton in 2005, and won 18-11 last season. Opening draw is set for 1 p.m. Saturday, May 16.