April 4, 2014

Northwestern Edges Penn State in Low-Scoring Affair

from Press Release

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Facing an opponent hungry to end a long history of futility against the Wildcats, No. 6 Northwestern staved off a pesky 10th-ranked Penn State squad, 5-4, on a rainy Friday night in University Park, Pa. The outcome lifted Northwestern to 2-1 in American Lacrosse Conference action this season and dropped PSU to 2-2, as the Wildcats won for the 19th straight time against Penn State.

It was the first time in Kelly Amonte Hiller's Northwestern tenure that the Wildcats won a game in which they scored five or fewer goals. NU's previous low goal total in a victory was six in a 6-5 defeat of North Carolina in the 2005 season-opener.

With torrential rains making it difficult to operate on attack -- and forcing the Wildcats to change from purple to dry black uniforms at halftime -- hard-dodging senior Kat DeRonda provided the offensive spark and recorded her fourth career hat trick in the win. Northwestern held on for the win despite going scoreless over the final 22 minutes of the contest.

Current ALC Defensive Player of the Week Bridget Bianco was the story of the soggy first half, making six saves in 30 minutes, the last of which came on a clean look for the Nittany Lions with three seconds before the halftime horn.

Northwestern also received another stellar performance from Alyssa Leonard, who won all six draw controls that the Wildcats claimed in Friday's low-scoring affair.

Bianco opened the game with a save on Penn State's first possession, and a few minutes later the Wildcats opened the scoring on an 8-meter goal by Lauren Murray. Northwestern then went in front 2-0 when Kaleigh Craig made her defender pay for going for an interception behind the cage, quickly wrapping the crease for the score.

The complexion of the first half changed when an apparent Kara Mupo 8-meter goal was taken off the board on an illegal stick call, a play that was followed quickly after by Penn State's first goal of the evening, courtesy of Kelly Lechner.

Northwestern endured an 11-minute scoreless drought before DeRonda broke the ice with her first score of the night at the 10:52 mark, lifting NU's lead to 3-1. After a Madison Cyr goal for Penn State, Bianco and the Wildcats defense stepped up for the duration of the first half as NU carried a one-goal advantage into intermission.

Bolstered by their halftime uniform change, the Wildcats struck first in the second stanza when DeRonda scored unassisted less than a minute into the half. Soon after, Northwestern hit its third crossbar of the night but retained possession and went ahead 5-3 on DeRonda's third of the evening.

Penn State would score the game's final goal with 10:40 remaining and was forced to play a man down during a critical stretch of the game after a yellow card issued to standout Tatum Coffey. The Wildcats claimed possession off a turnover with five minutes to play and whittled the clock down to 2:30 before PSU was hit with yet another yellow card, handcuffing the hosts for the stretch run.

Penn State did manage to fire one final shot attempt in the last minute of play, a half-chance that was handled easily by Bianco.

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