When it comes to Northwestern women’s lacrosse, there isn’t much the six-time NCAA champions can’t do. But this season, the Wildcats have failed to figure out the Florida Gators, who defeated Northwestern (currently 17-2 this season) in the American Lacrosse Conference (ALC) championship Saturday in Gainesville 14-7 in a rematch of last year’s ALC championship game.
The No. 1 Wildcats’ brief run to the championship game started Friday against Johns Hopkins, the sixth seed who upset third-seeded Penn State in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Junior Erin Fitzgerald put the ‘Cats on the board early into the first half before three Hopkins goals in less than three minutes put Northwestern in an 3-1 hole. In classic Northwestern lacrosse fashion, the ‘Cats responded with four more goals in three and a half minutes. Fitzgerald and junior Taylor Thornton, the ALC player of the year, each scored on free position shots, which were followed by goals from junior Gabriella Flibotte, sophomore Kat DeRonda and senior Shannon Smith to give Northwestern a 5-3 lead.
Hopkins’ Sarah Taylor brought the Jays within one with a goal just above the 7-minute mark, but sophomore Christy Turner and Smith tallied two more points for Northwestern before the first period expired.
From this point forward, the ‘Cats kept Hopkins at a comfortable length and never let the Jays get within four goals. Junior Ali Cassera and senior Lacey Vigmostad kicked off the second half with a goal each, Smith scored two more goals and Thorton scored once more to give Northwestern a 13-9 victory over the Jays.
After Florida beat fourth-seeded Ohio State in the semi-finals, the stage was set for a Saturday rematch with the ALC title on the line.
Florida took the lead 40 seconds into the game with a goal from Caroline Chesterman, but sophomore Kara Mupo tied the score with just over 25 minutes left in the first half on a free postion shot. Mupo’s score was quickly followed by two goals from Florida’s Shannon Gilroy and two by Kitty Cullen before Thornton broke the ‘Cats’ 20-minute scoring drought, making the score 5-2 in favor of the Gators.
Thornton’s goal was followed by six alternating, back-to-back goals from NU’s Amanda Macaluso and Florida’s Gilroy that started at the end of the first half and carried over to the 24-minute mark in the second, with the Gators leading 8-5.
After Macaluso and Gilroy’s call and answer, Florida began to pull away. Three goals from Brittany Dashiell, Chesterman, and Cullen gave the Gators an 11-5 lead and the score stood at 14-7 – Vigmostad and Thornton scored for the ‘Cats – as the final seconds ticked down.
What comes next:
Northwestern will take on Notre Dame this Saturday, May 12 at 3 p.m. at Lakeside Field in the first round of the NCAA Playoffs.
This game will likely see Shannon Smith break the Northwestern lacrosse record for career goals. With 248 goals, Smith needs just three more to eclipse Kristen Kjellman’s record of 250. Smith scored four goals against Johns Hopkins before being shutout by Florida.