May 6, 2011

Amonte Hiller: 'All Adrenaline at This Point'

from press release

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Northwestern may have surrendered the first goal of its ALC Championship semifinal matchup with Penn State, but the Wildcats immediately took a stranglehold of the game with five-straight goals and cruised to a 14-3 victory against the Nittany Lions Friday in Nashville. Junior Shannon Smith led the offensive charge with five goals while eight other 'Cats contributed goals on the evening.

Penn State scored only twice more after that early tally and did not muster a goal in the second half against a blanketing Northwestern defense.

With Friday's semifinal victory, the second-seeded Wildcats advance to the ALC championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday against top-seeded Florida, which held off Ohio State in the first contest of the afternoon Friday.

"We were trying to work for good shots, we got some quality opportunities and we put them away right from the beginning," said head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. "We did a good job with possession and draw controls and that's key for us. Having the ball on attack helps but our defense did a great job, they played together, came up with loose balls and we need to continue to do that.

"It's all adrenaline at this point, neither team has much time to prepare," said Amonte Hiller of her looming championship tilt with Florida on Saturday. "We're just going to go out there and give it our best shot."

By day's end, Northwestern had won 15 of 19 draws, forced five turnovers and better than doubled Penn State's shot attempts, 28-12.

Penn State was fortunate to score on its opening possession and win the ensuing draw control, but NU forced a turnover and set up shop on the offensive end. Erin Fitzgerald took a long feed from behind the net and came with a full head of steam down the center, finishing with a high shot to tie the score at one.

Junior Jessica Russo then gave NU its first lead off a pass around the crease by Kat DeRonda, Russo's 17th goal of the year and the first of what would be a career-best three assists in the game for the DeRonda.

Shannon Smith had two would-be goals disallowed in the opening 10 minutes for stepping in the crease violations, but on her third shot she left no doubt. Smith worked to the middle of the fan and whipped home a sidearm shot, boosting NU's lead to 3-1. After an NU draw control win, Amanda Macaluso saw a clear path to goal on the right side and beat PSU's Dana Cahill, giving Northwestern a three-goal lead and forcing Penn State head coach Missy Doherty -- a college teammate of Amonte Hiller's at Maryland -- to call a timeout.

But that did little to stem NU's momentum as Kara Mupo tucked a tough-angle shot past Cahill off a feed on the right side of the fan by DeRonda. Penn State scraped out a goal off what was nearly a turnover in front of the Northwestern net, but Smith had the answer with a spin and shot, her 60th of the 2011 campaign.

Smith, the Division I leader in points this season with 99, then picked up her 36th assist with a dish to junior Alex Frank, giving NU a 7-3 lead. The Wildcats dictated possession the rest of the first half and added to its advantage before the intermission when Smith buried her third goal of the game, cruising past the left side of the PSU defense and scoring with ease.

It was a move that Smith replicated on the first possession of the second half, dodging past a litany of Penn State defenders for her fourth goal of the game with less than two minutes out of the break. After a nifty caused turnover in Penn State territory by Russo, Macaluso converted a free position attempt to put NU in front comfortably, 10-3.

Northwestern continued to dominate draw controls, which led to Smith's fifth on the evening and 63rd of the year, giving her sole possession of seventh place on NU's career points list with 239. Smith passed both Kathleen Kochmansky and Danielle Spencer with her six points Friday night.

Though its possessions were few and far between, Penn State worked for its second free position chance of the game midway through the second, but saw a low shot denied by Brianne LoManto in the cage. LoManto finished with six saves on the evening to anchor the NU defense.

Late goals by senior Brooke Matthews, sophomore Beatrice Conley and freshman Kelly Rich iced Northwestern's trip to Saturday's championship game, where NU will attempt to win its seventh consecutive ALC title.

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