Thornton, Leonard and Northwestern Stymie Stanford
from press release
EVANSTON, Ill. -- With dominant all-around performances by senior Taylor Thornton and junior Alyssa Leonard, second-ranked Northwestern pulled away from Stanford to post a 15-8 victory in the Wildcats' 2013 NCAA Championship debut Sunday at Lakeside Field. Thornton and Leonard each finished with four points on three goals and one assist, with Leonard also winning eight draw controls to lead NU to an 18-6 advantage in the circle for the afternoon.
Northwestern improved to 18-0 all-time in NCAA Tournament home games under head coachKelly Amonte Hiller and will have a chance to add to that ledger next week. The Wildcats will host fellow American Lacrosse Conference member and seventh-ranked Penn State in the NCAA quarterfinals at 7 p.m. CT Saturday (May 18) at Lakeside Field.Seven total Wildcats found the back of the net Sunday, with Ali Casseramatching Thornton and Leonard's hat tricks while junior Kate Macdonald and freshman Nancy Dunbar each recorded the first two-goal games of their respective careers.
"I think we're playing good team offense and team defense together and that's been our focus, really feeding off of each other," Amonte Hiller said. "When you as a player know you have people [supporting] you, it's easy to feel like you can step up and lay it all out there, and that's what Taylor and Alyssa did today."
Less than eight minutes into her first career NCAA Tournament contest, Northwestern freshman Kaleigh Craig put the Wildcats in front with a dodge down the right of the fan for her eighth goal this season. The Cardinal got on the board when it capitalized on an errant Northwestern pass on a clear attempt just two minutes later, but Cassera quickly restored a 2-1 NU lead with the 21st goal of her senior season.
After Stanford knotted things at two, Thornton went to work and scored the first of her three goals when she spun to her left hand and deftly finished by Stanford GK Lyndsey Munoz to put the Wildcats in front, 3-2. The Cardinal scored two straight to briefly take a 4-3 lead, but Leonard erased the deficit by tracking down a loose ball in front of the Stanford cage and scoring with a diving sweep of her stick at the 5:19 mark of the first half.
Less than one minute later, Leonard made it two in a row when she finished a feed from Macdonald, and Thornton would score unassisted once again just over 90 seconds before halftime, as NU took a 6-4 lead into the break.
Stanford's Julia Burns scored the first of her three goals less than two minutes into the second half after the Wildcats were whistled for a 10-second crease violation on defense, but the Cardinal's scoring opportunities proved hard to come by after that. The 'Cats received another stellar solo effort by Thornton at the 25-minute mark, and less than two minutes later Thornton took on the role of playmaker as she read the defense and calmly fed Kelly Rich on the doorstep as the Wildcats went ahead, 8-5.
With Leonard cruising in the draw circle, the Wildcats pieced together a 7-1 run that included strong scoring dodges by Leonard and Macdonald before Leonard fed a cutting Cassera to extend the Northwestern lead to five. Just 45 seconds later, Dunbar netted an opportunistic goal as she shoveled home a loose ball from just outside the crease, and Macdonald scored unassisted yet again with 7:38 to play, doubling her season scoring output with her second of the day.
Burns briefly had Stanford thinking comeback with two transition goals in less than one minute, but Dunbar and Cassera each scored late to assure Northwestern a place in the NCAA quarterfinals for the 10th consecutive season.
Leonard raised her season draw controls total to a remarkable 120 and also surpassed 300 for her career (301), moving her into fourth all-time in NCAA history. Thornton's three caused turnovers against the Cardinal give her 99 for her career, leaving her eight shy of matching Alex Frank (2012) for second all-time at Northwestern.
Gabriella Flibotte also recorded three caused turnovers to bring
her team-leading season total to 44 and move pastLacey Vigmostad
for fifth in NU history with 86.
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