With a minute to play on Friday night, freshman Megan Kinna stole a Penn State pass, ran uncontested to the goal and placed the ball in the bottom right corner of the net to send the ‘Cats to the Big Ten Championship game for the second year in a row.
NU, who never trailed in a four-plus hour contest that included a lengthy weather delay, topped Penn State, 14-13, to land a date with top-ranked Maryland in Sunday’s conference championship game. The ‘Cats (10-8, 4-2 B1G) came into the game as underdogs to No. 5 PSU (15-3, 5-1 B1G), but their last matchup suggested we would definitely have a close game – Penn State won 14-13 in Evanston.
Much like last game against Penn State, Northwestern was the team with the early advantage: Catie Ingrilli scored the game’s first goal less than a minute into the game, and the Wildcats took a 3-1 lead early on. From there, the teams continued to trade goals until it was 5-5. With 12 and a half minutes to play in the first half, Christina Esposito took the lead back with the best play of the night, a no-look goal to make it 6-5.
Each team added a goal before halftime, when the rain and lightning began to really come down in College Park, MD, launching an hour-and-a-half long rain delay before the second half began. Despite the brutal conditions when play finally resumed, the ‘Cats continued to play well: Ingrilli again scored quickly after the start of play to extend the lead to two goals. Again, Penn State responded as both teams went back and forth scoring until the game was tied at nine apiece. The rain and strong defense kept both offenses quiet for several minutes, until goals by Danita Stroup and Esposito gave the ‘Cats a two-goal lead with ten minutes to play.
But yet again, the Nittany Lions responded: Back-to-back PSU goals tied the game at 11 with 4:17 to go. The offenses remained silent until Kinna saved the day with :59 to play, sending the ‘Cats to the title game.
They face off against Maryland at 11 a.m. Sunday: Maryland, the No. 1 team in the nation, beat NU 18-9 a few weeks ago – but if last night is any indication, don’t expect the ‘Cats to go quietly.