May 15, 2010

Courtesy of Northwestern Athletics

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Using a 6-0 run midway through the opening half, Northwestern took control and never looked back, roaring past Notre Dame 19-7 in an NCAA first round battle at Lakeside Field. Senior Katrina Dowd (Yorktown Heights, N.Y./Yorktown) led the team with five goals and three assists while sophomore Shannon Smith (West Babylon, N.Y./West Babylon) and freshman Erin Fitzgerald (Mt. Sinai, N.Y./Mt. Sinai) combined for seven goals and five assists.

"I thought our team really came out and played well, especially about midway through the opening half," said head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. "We were able to see what Notre Dame was doing and I thought the girls made some great adjustments. It's a fun time of year and we're just excited that we get to practice and play for at least one more week."

Dowd and Smith both tied for a game-high eight points, Dowd doing so with five goals and three assists while Smith notched four goals and four assists on the afternoon. The performance moved Dowd into an exclusive club as she becomes the fourth member of the Northwestern 200-goal club, sitting at 203 for her career.

Fitzgerald was a force all over the field for the Wildcats, contributing offensively with three goals and an assist, matching her career-best with four points. She would also add three ground balls, a draw control and a caused turnover and was a thorn in the Irish's side all afternoon long.

Fellow freshman Ali Cassera (Fairfield, N.J./West Essex) contributed with a pair of goals of her own, as did senior Danielle Spencer (Rochester, N.Y./Brighton). Spencer, who has established herself as one of the top draw control threats in the country, recorded five on the day, upping her season total to 93 which surpasses Kristen Kjellman's 91 in 2006 as the program's new single-season record.

Senior Kim Pantages (North Caldwell, N.J./West Essex), junior Brooke Matthews (Baltimore, Md./Friends School) and sophomore Alexandra Frank (Westwood, Mass./Westwood) also tallied a goal in the victory with freshman Amanda Macaluso (Smithtown, N.Y./Hauppauge) dishing out an assist as well.

Northwestern pounced out to the early 2-0 lead behind goals from Matthews and Smith, only to see Notre Dame rally to tie the game at two. The teams would then exchange goals before Dowd's first of the game gave the Wildcats a lead they would never relinquish. Northwestern would score four goals in a span of 72 seconds, including a pair from Fitzgerald just 15 seconds apart, to take an 8-3 lead and break the game open.

That was just the beginning of an 11-1 run for the Wildcats, which spanned the final 17 minutes of the opening half and the first eight minutes of the second. Dowd would notch four of her goals during that span with Spencer and Fitzgerald each scoring twice. Northwestern and Notre Dame would exchange goals for the majority of the second half until three straight for the Wildcats sealed the opening round victory.

Northwestern dominated in both shots (39-21) and draw controls (18-9), as the Wildcats ability to win the draw proved to be the fuel that sparked the offensive attack. After splitting the first eight draws of the game, NU won seven of the next eight to control the tempo. Freshman Taylor Thornton (Dallas, Texas/Hockaday School) tied a career-best with five, matching Spencer for the game-high.

Defensively, Notre Dame committed 18 turnovers, three of which were caused by Frank. Sophomore goalkeeper Brianne LoManto (Miller Place, N.Y./Rocky Point) caused a pair of Irish turnovers as well while recording seven saves in just under 53 minutes of work.

With the first round victory, Northwestern has now notched 21 consecutive NCAA tournament wins, tying Maryland's all-time record from 1995-2001. The Wildcats improved to 22-1 (.957) in the postseason under Amonte Hiller and have now taken 10-straight against their rivals from South Bend.

For those who were unable to make it to Evanston for the Northwestern victory, the game will air on the Big Ten Network beginning at 9:30 p.m. CT Saturday evening.

Northwestern now prepares for the NCAA quarterfinals and are guaranteed to see a familiar face in Evanston next weekend. The Wildcats will face the winner of the Duke/Vanderbilt first round game, which will be played in Durham, N.C., Sunday afternoon. Opening draw for next weekend's quarterfinal matchup will be at 1 p.m. CT Saturday, May 22, at Lakeside Field.