March 17, 2012

Smith's Seven Points Power Northwestern Past UMass

from press release

EVANSTON, Ill. — Northwestern looked every bit like the top-ranked team in the country Saturday, amassing a 10-goal lead at halftime and eventually winning 19-7 over No. 19 Massachusetts, handing the Minutewomen (7-1) their first loss of the year in the process. Senior Shannon Smith was the offensive catalyst in the first half, scoring five times before intermission and finishing with six goals and seven points on the day.

Smith's performance left her one goal shy of tying her single-game career best and gives her a team-leading 24 on the year. Sophomore Kara Mupo contributed three goals and an assist to the win.

Northwestern scored on its first possession of the game when Smith directed traffic from behind the net and found a wide-open Mupo for the goal just over two minutes into the game. Cori Murray quickly countered with a goal for the Minutewomen, but Mupo restored an NU lead for good when she converted off a feed by Beatrice Conley.

Smith then took over on offense for the Wildcats, twice creating scoring chances for herself off the crease and then putting away an 8-meter attempt to make it three goals in under two minutes for the senior from West Babylon, N.Y.

Following a Massachusetts timeout, fellow senior Jessica Russo and Smith buried two more free position opportunities to give the Wildcats a commanding 7-1 advantage with 15 minutes still to play before halftime.

After Nina Sarcona pulled one back for UMass, sophomore defender Christy Turner took a loose ball and went coast-to-coast for her first goal of the season. NU won the ensuing draw control and soon after saw Casey Bocklet set up sophomore Kelly Rich for a pretty goal in front. Less than a minute later Bocklet earned and converted an 8-meter chance, and the Wildcats were comfortably ahead, 10-2.

Mupo completed her hat trick at the 6:12 mark of the first half when Amanda Macaluso charged hard into the offensive zone and dished to Mupo for a fast-break goal, and goals by Erin Fitzgerald and Smith in the final 5:30 allowed Northwestern to take a 13-3 advantage into halftime.

The Wildcats' stout defense was anchored by goalie Brianne LoManto, who thwarted UMass to the tune of five first-half saves.

The pace slowed a bit out of halftime but junior Taylor Thornton changed that with a darting run to goal that saw her single-handedly beat most of the UMass defense for her ninth goal of the year. Thornton would go on to lead NU with five draw control wins on the afternoon.

A caused turnover by Fitzgerald against UMass goalie Rachel Vallarelli led to NU's next goal, with Fitzgerald dishing to Russo for an open-net goal that extended Northwestern's lead to 13 goals. Senior Lacey Vigmostad tacked on another score five minutes later and, after a pair of Minutewomen tallies, Bocklet notched her second off a nice look by Mupo, setting a career high with three points in the process.

Smith put away one final unassisted goal at the 5:54 mark and freshman Blake McHugh scored her second goal of the season with 2:46 to go to round out the Wildcats' scoring.

In addition to her one goal and one assist, Fitzgerald pitched in with four ground balls and two caused turnovers for the Wildcats. As a team, NU provoked nine Massachusetts turnovers on the afternoon.

Prior to the game, head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller and Northwestern recognized two of their own making a return to Evanston -- 2004 NU graduate Angela McMahon is now the head coach at Massachusetts while 2006 Wildcat alum Sarah Albrecht serves as her associate head coach. Amonte Hiller presented McMahon with an honorary 2005 NCAA Championship ring to recognize her for her contributions in the early days of the Northwestern women's lacrosse program.

The Wildcats remain at home to open American Lacrosse Conference play when they host Vanderbilt at 3 p.m. Friday. Two days later, Northwestern will step back out of conference to battle Navy at noon Sunday at Lakeside Field.

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