Feb 25, 2011

Thornton's OT Goal Lifts Northwestern over UNC

by Kelly Parsons | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | Game Blog Replay

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- In a game that featured four tie scores, the Northwestern and North Carolina women's lacrosse teams seemed to be stuck in an overtime stalemate. Both defenses had been stingy all night long, and the 6-6 score was the only thing the teams had to show for a combined 47 shots on goal.

There appeared to be no end in sight.

But with just seconds separating the two teams from an impending sudden death double overtime at Chapel Hill's Fetzer Field, Northwestern's Taylor Thornton decided to take matters into her own hands.

"Shannon (Smith) was being face guarded, so she came over and we just timed it right and I was prepared," Thornton said. "I knew it was going to go in. I was confident."

With 15 seconds remaining, Thornton received a final pass from Smith and launched the ball into the back of the net. The game-winning goal helped the No. 2 Wildcats top the No. 3 Tar Heels 7-6 in a Friday night thriller.

Thornton's last-second goal was certainly proof of the sophomore's standout performance against North Carolina, but Thornton's excellence could also be seen in the silence of UNC senior Corey Donohoe.

Donohoe led the Tar Heels last year in scoring with 54 season goals, and she's racked up a total of 13 in the Tar Heels' first three games.

But Friday night, Donohoe's presence was virtually non-existent. Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller was pleased with the way her team's defense shut out UNC's top attacker -- and especially with Thornton's aggressive guarding of the Maryland native.

"Anytime you can shut another person's top player down, I think that's a great thing," Amonte Hiller said. "Kara Cannizzaro did a great job stepping in and filling in the holes for them... They don't just have Corey Donohoe; they have other good players as well."

Cannizzaro had six shots and a goal in the matchup, and UNC senior Kaitlyn Messinger added three goals for the Tar Heels. But it wasn't quite enough against the persevering Wildcats.

Northwestern raced to a 2-0 start, but North Carolina rallied back to tie the score at three before
halftime. The 3-3 score marked the third game in a row these two teams went into intermission tied.

The Tar Heels held the momentum for much of the second half, and took a 5-3 lead after goals from UNC's Emily Garrity and Messinger lit up the board. The two teams registered seven total yellow cards in the second half, forcing the Tar Heels and the Wildcats to play man-down several times throughout the period.

But Shannon Smith was all the Wildcats needed to get their spark back.

Smith, who led the Wildcats with four goals, scored two consecutive goals in less than three minutes to close the gap and tie the score at five.

"My teammates trusted me in the moment ...  I knew when I got it I was going to go score," Smith said. "I knew I was going to goal. I wasn't going to back out of it."

The Wildcats are now 2-0 after beating two ranked opponents, including No. 10 Notre Dame in their season opener last week.

Smith played a prominent role, but after the game, she shied away from talking about her accomplishments. She felt someone else's were more important.

"I think Taylor Thornton's goal tops all of my goals," she said.