March 25, 2014

Northwestern Knocks UMass from Unbeaten Ranks

by Stephen Sellner |

No. 11 Northwestern beat No. 6 Massachusetts, 10-6, handing UMass its first loss of the season and its first home loss since 2011.

© Thom Kendall Photography

AMHERST, Mass. — Losers of three of its last four, No. 11 Northwestern could ill afford to wait for things to go its way. And holding a three-goal halftime lead at No. 6 Massachusetts Tuesday night, the Wildcats not only knew they had to turn things on in the second half, but also the rest of the season.

Mission accomplished.

Northwestern (5-3) used a 3-0 run to start the second half to put the Minutewomen (9-1) away in a 10-6 win in front of 623 on a frigid night at McGuirk Stadium.

Wildcat sophomore Kaleigh Craig tallied three goals, including two in the opening run of the second half, to help the visitors notch their ninth straight win over UMass in the modern era.

“It was definitely really satisfying because we’ve had a little bit of a tough season so far and we’re trying to really get it rolling,” Craig said. “It was refreshing.”

Up 5-2 at the break, Northwestern senior Alyssa Leonard (two goals) broke away in transition and cashed in to push the lead to four in the 33rd minute.

Seconds later, Craig finished a free-position goal and minutes later fought through traffic to deposit her third score of the game.

Craig leads the team with 17 goals on the season.

“I’m trying to be a go-to (player),” Craig said. “I’m trying to be someone to rely on.”

“She’s just really explosive,” Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said of Craig. “She’s starting to come into her own, get her confidence level up. And she’s really tough to stop because she’s so big and fast and quick.

“She’s really got all the components of a great player.”

The Wildcats were two days removed from an 11-7 loss at No. 3 Syracuse, and suffered an overtime loss at No. 14 Ohio State and 1-goal defeat at home against No. 7 Notre Dame earlier in the month.

Senior Kelly Rich dished out four assists for the Wildcats, while senior Kat DeRonda and redshirt junior Kara Mupo chimed in with two goals apiece.

Northwestern led throughout, but the Minutewomen hung around in the first half thanks to timely saves on free positions by junior goalkeeper Rachel Vallarelli (eight saves). UMass senior Sam Rush tallied two of her three goals in the first half.

The Minutewomen appeared to get on the board first when Rush barged in for a goal in the first minute. But Rush was whistled for entering the crease, wiping away the score.

“We lacked execution at certain points of the game and really couldn’t put it away on the offensive end,” UMass coach Angela McMahon said. “And with a great team like that, you really have to make every opportunity count.”

Northwestern kicked off the scoring less than a minute later when senior Christy Turner whistled a shot to the back of the net from point-blank range on a feed from Rich.

DeRonda put the Wildcats up a pair in the 14th minute on a free-position goal, and a minute later Mupo took a crossing pass from Rich and raced toward the net to beat Vallarelli to make it a 3-0 advantage.

The Wildcats own a 13-1 lead in the series between the two programs.

Northwestern’s schedule doesn’t get any easier with a visit from No. 1 North Carolina on Sunday.

“It’s a good win to come off of,” Craig said, “and I think that we’re really gonna push it the rest of the week to get ourselves fully prepared” for Sunday.

Stephen Sellner can be followed on Twitter @Stephen_Sellner and reached at

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