COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The start of Northwestern's American Conference season on Sunday afternoon was par for the course in the young 2014 campaign, with Ohio State forcing NU into its fourth one-goal decision in five games. The teams needed overtime to decide their 13th all-time meeting, with Ohio State recording the only goal in six minutes of OT to earn an 11-10 victory against the Cats at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
The game marked Northwestern's first overtime loss since the 2007 season-opener at North Carolina and just the third ever under Kelly Amonte Hiller. It also was the third consecutive meeting between Northwestern and Ohio State to be decided by a single goal, with the Buckeyes' win Sunday snapping a string of 10 consecutive NU victories in the series dating to 2003.
Trailing 9-7 early in the second half, Northwestern would allow only one goal in the final 24:32 of regulation and evened the score at 10 thanks to two Kat DeRonda unassisted goals and an 8-meter tally by Kara Mupo with 8:56 to play.
Both teams struggled with turnovers down the stretch, but an intercepted pass on the ride by NU's Alyssa Leonard gave the Wildcats the final chance in regulation. Ohio State goalkeeper Tori DeScenza turned away an 8-meter attempt with 10 seconds remaining, however, to preserve a tie score and send the game to overtime.
The Buckeyes received a go-ahead goal from Cian Dabrowski on their first possession of OT, but Northwestern spent most of the final five minutes peppering the Ohio State cage with shots. DeScenza was stellar in the extra session, denying several more shots and watching as Northwestern's final shot attempt under pressure sailed wide as the horn sounded.
Leonard and DeRonda each finished with two goals apiece, with Leonard also claiming eight draw controls to raise her career total to 350 and move within three of matching the NCAA Division I all-time record. At the other end, junior goalkeeper Bridget Bianco recorded nine saves on the game.
Leonard got the Wildcats off on the right foot Sunday by winning the opening draw control and scoring unassisted on the crease just 49 seconds in. Ohio State then quickly responded with a score, and goals by Kaleigh Craig and Blake McHugh would keep the Wildcats even at three through nine minutes of action.
A man-up goal by Christy Turner off a feed by Kara Mupo briefly gave Northwestern a 4-3 lead before the Buckeyes answered with two more at the other end. Northwestern's Lauren Murray was then fouled on the crease and converted the ensuing 8-meter shot to even the score once more at five, but Ohio State netted its next goal immediately after the next draw control to go in front 6-5.
OSU appeared poised to add to its lead on its next possession before Bianco made a stellar save going to her knees to deny the Buckeyes. On the resulting Northwestern possession, the Buckeyes suffered a defensive breakdown that left Leonard all alone on the crease for an easy goal at the 4:58 mark.
It was the first of two in a row for the Cats, as Turner forced a shooting space violation and fed sophomore Christina Esposito off the 8-meter setup for Esposito's fourth score of the season.
But Ohio State continued the back-and-forth theme of the game by closing the half on a 2-0 run, the last coming with 19 seconds before the whistle to give the Buckeyes an 8-7 lead at the break.
Ohio State then took the first two-goal lead by either team early in the second half on a drive and score by Kaila Gottwick. Seven minutes later, Leonard made a key interception on the ride to return possession to Northwestern, and DeRonda made the most of the extra chance with an unassisted goal at the 17:37 mark.
The tables turned on NU four minutes later, however, with a big save by Bianco preceding a Northwestern turnover on the ensuing clear. Gottwick got redemption with a lefty laser shortly after, increasing OSU's lead to 10-8 with 13:38 left. But DeRonda once again had the answer and lifted Northwestern with a second consecutive unassisted strike to bring the Wildcats back within one.
Mupo brought Northwestern back to even with her 8-meter goal at the 8:56 mark before the late-game dramatics played out.
Ohio State -- coached by a pair of Kelly Amonte Hiller's disciples in head coach Alexis Venechanos and former Wildcat All-American Christy Finch -- was sparked on attack by Katie Chase's four goals and a hat trick by Cian Dabrowski.
The Wildcats outshot the Buckeyes 32-21, claimed 21 ground balls to the hosts' 14 and held a slight 13-12 edge in draw controls.