May 1, 2009

Cats Down Vandy in ALC Semifinal

from press release

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Junior Katrina Dowd (Yorktown Heights, N.Y./Yorktown) tied a career-best with five goals and senior Hannah Nielsen (Adelaide, Australia) added three goals and three assists as top-ranked Northwestern held off a late charge from 12th-ranked Vanderbilt to take a 15-10 victory in the American Lacrosse Conference semifinals. NU improves to 18-0 on the season, and will face Penn State in the championship game Saturday.

Vanderbilt (10-6) made noise early, as a goal from Carter Foote gave the Commodores the early 1-0 lead with just over 25 minutes remaining. But Nielsen would respond with a goal just 22 seconds later and the Wildcat charge was on.

Sophomore Brooke Matthews (Baltimore, Md./Friends School) converted a free position shot with 20:55 remaining in the half, then junior Danielle Spencer (Rochester, N.Y./Brighton) netted her first of the game 48 seconds later to push the lead to 3-1.

Goals by Dowd and senior Meredith Frank (Westwood, Mass./Westwood) pushed NU's lead to 5-1 midway through the opening half before a Vandy goal from Sarah Downing trimmed the gap to three.

But that is as close as the `Dores could get, as goals from Matthews, Dowd and a rocket off the stick of Nielsen put the Wildcats firmly in the driver's seat. Dowd would add her third of the half with 3:28 remaining. A late Commodore tally sent the teams to the half with Northwestern holding a 9-3 lead.

The Wildcats set the tone for the remainder of the game early, as Nielsen found freshman Shannon Smith (West Babylon, N.Y./West Babylon) 36 seconds into the second to push the lead to seven at 10-3.

Both the `Cats and `Dores would exchange goals for a nine-minute span, as a pair of Vanderbilt goals were answered by freshman Jessica Russo (Port Jefferson, N.Y./St. Anthony's) and Dowd's fourth of the game.

Playing with their season on the line, the Commodores weren't going down without a fight. Four-straight Vandy goals over a 10-minute span, including a pair from Foote, cut the Wildcat advantage to just three at 12-9 with 13:49 to play.

But Nielsen would give NU some breathing room, winning the ensuing draw and then converting on a free position goal 36 seconds later to push the Wildcat advantage to four. Dowd nailed down the coffin by netting her fifth of the game, and 50th of the season, with 5:27 remaining. A late Vandy goal was answered with one final shot from Frank with 14 seconds, giving NU the 15-10 victory.

A tight contest from the opening whistle, Northwestern edged Vanderbilt in shots (29-25), draw controls (15-12) and ground balls (15-12). Goalkeeper Morgan Lathrop (Briarcliff, N.Y./Hackley School) came up with six big saves, including five in the second half, as she surpassed 100 saves for the fourth-consecutive season. She has 522 for her career, needing just three more to surpass Ashley Gersuk as the program's all-time save leader.

Nielsen continues to solidify her case for a second-straight Tewaaraton Trophy, as she now sits with 118 points on the season (55G, 63A). Friday marked her 62nd consecutive game with a point, as she also won three draw controls and scooped up a career-best four ground balls. Both Spencer (52) and Dowd (50) join Nielsen in the season's 50-goal club.

Freshman Alexandra Frank (Westwood, Mass./Westwood) won three more draws on the afternoon, upping her season total to team-best 56. With the pair of goals by her sister Meredith, she ups her career point total to 196 (142G, 54A), one point shy of tying Laura Glassanos for 10th-place all-time.

Northwestern improved to 7-3 all-time against Vanderbilt, and has won the last seven meetings against the `Dores. The Wildcats also kept a pair of impressive streaks alive, extending their winning streak to 24 games while notching their 28th-straight ALC victory.

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