In a game typical of a Northwestern-Ohio State lacrosse matchup, the score was low and close. In atypical Northwestern-Ohio State fashion, the ‘Cats battled back from a two-goal deficit to victory and the American Lacrosse Conference’s final championship game.
Though it seemed second-seeded Ohio State had Northwestern’s number for the first half, five goals in six and a half minutes in the second half signaled a momentum shift, resulting in a 9-8 win for the ‘Cats.
After going into the locker room trailing the Buckeyes 4-3, the second half started out looking very bleak for the third-seeded Wildcats. The defense allowed two Ohio State goals in the first eight minutes. Now, Northwestern was down by three goals with a sloppy attack.
NU needed someone, anyone, to “light the fire.” Senior Christy Turner answered the call.
Kara Mupo’s shot was blocked and in the scramble for the rebound, Turner glided through the defense, scooped up the ball and shot it past OSU’s Tori DeScenza, who was named ALC Goalie of the Year. After that goal, the ‘Cats went on a 5-2 run and never looked back.
“I don’t think I was really thinking too much out there,” Turner said of her tide-shifting goal. “I was just playing, doing what I had to do, whatever it took to help the team out, whether that be passing, shooting. I just played that role.”
Turner and Alyssa Leonard each had hat tricks to lead the Northwestern attack, while fellow senior Kat DeRonda added two goals. That’s saying something, considering DeScenza made four saves on seven shots in the first half.
In the first half, Leonard’s league-famous draw controls weren’t going Northwestern’s way. Ohio State grabbed five draw controls to Northwestern’s three in the first half. In the second half, however, Leonard stepped up. Northwestern won 10 of 11 draw controls in the second half.
“I just think I was a little more focused on it,” Leonard said. “Because I did so poorly in the second half, I knew I had to change things around and I really just had to execute and do my job.”
When the draw fell into the pockets of Northwestern sticks, it gave the defense a much-needed breather. Ohio State’s offense mirrored that of Northwestern usual routine: slow, deliberate, measured.
Junior goalie Bridget Bianco had a tough night, facing 11 shots, seven of which were courtesy of Buckeyes’ senior attacker Katie Chase.
Chase carried the Ohio State offense through the game and into the second half, scoring five goals in total. She even had a chance to tie the game in the final minutes on a free position opportunity, but pulled out for a better look.
The ‘Cats and Buckeyes have a history of close games. The previous three matchups between the ALC rivals were decided by only one goal. On Mar. 9, Northwestern fell to Ohio State, 11-10, in overtime. Almost exactly a year earlier, Northwestern defeated Ohio State, 9-8, the same score as tonight’s game. Back in 2011, Northwestern eked out a 13-12 win in another overtime game.
Now, in the last ALC Championship game before most of the conference’s teams will join the Big Ten next year, Northwestern and Florida will rekindle their rivalry Sunday at 11 a.m. Northwestern's last four ALC Championship opponents have been Florida and NU holds the upper hand, 2-1. Yes, this game is early, but you won’t want to miss this.
“It’s anyone’s game on any given day and I think that’s exciting,” said head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller.
Studs & Duds
Ohio State's defense: OSU didn’t come to “play school;” it came to play defense. The defensive unit finished the game with seven caused turnovers, 10 ground balls and six saves.
Teamwork on offense: Prior to Northwestern’s 5-2 run in the second half, it had zero assists. But Leonard, Kate Macdonald and Lauren Murray assisted the last three Wildcat goals at clutch moments in the game. As Turner said after the game, the team isn’t looking for one star shooter. They want to work together.
Alyssa Leonard’s passion: It must be a lot of fun to be Alyssa Leonard. She controls the draw and holds the NCAA record for most draw controls with 434. She leads her team with 33 goals on the season. And she’s the emotional senior leader for Northwestern. Every time something goes her way, she pumps her fist in the air to rival any professional superstar.
Turnovers in the midfield: Despite some beautiful dodges and goals, the midfield transition game was messy. Both teams finished with 12 turnovers each, most of which came on dropped balls and intercepted passes in the midfield.
The weather: About halfway through the game, a light misty rain descended on Lakeside Field, making the turf slippery and the conditions miserable. Thanks, Evanston.