January 29, 2012

Northwestern's Past Greats Help Beat the Present

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | Live Blog Replay

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — No need to get your TV or computer screen checked out. There's nothing wrong with that purple-colored tint on your digital display. That discoloration is a decidedly Northwestern hue to the women's national team's 16-6 win over the Wildcats on Sunday at Champion Challenge.

Half of Team USA's goals were scored by former Northwestern players, including four by Katrina Dowd, who earned Most Outstanding Player honors for her effort. Former Wildcats Lindsey Munday (three goals, three assists) and Danielle Spencer (one goal, one assist) also tickled the twine against their alma mater.

Lindsey Munday (three goals, three assists) was one of several Northwestern alumbs to have big days against the Wildcats on Sunday in Team USA's 16-6 win at Champion Challenge.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

"It's really fun to play with former teammates like Sarah Albrecht, as well as Katrina and Spence," said Munday, who was an assistant at Northwestern after her playing career and coached Dowd and Spencer. "We tend to know what one another wants to do on the field, and we can have that communication without even talking, so it's always nice to have that chemistry where you can work together and work well off each other."

The U.S. win kicked off Sunday's nationally televised matinee of action at the seventh annual US Lacrosse event, held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Following Sunday's main game, and while Denver faced the men's national team, Team USA played Northwestern a second time and won 18-1, sweeping the Wildcats to cap a 5-0 weekend.

"I was really pleased with the discipline we showed throughout the [first] game," U.S. coach Ricky Fried said. "Our defense played particularly well, holding position, not going for checks for most of the game, and staying poised against a very quality team that's seasoned, plays fast, is very aggressive. We made sure that we stayed composed and disciplined the entire time."

Intense and physical play defined Sunday, as Team USA was called for 33 fouls and Northwestern for 18 in the first meeting. Defender Taylor Thornton, a national team hopeful playing for Northwestern in Sunday's opener, called the environment "a battlefield out there."

"You come to this level, you're playing a national-championship-caliber team, they're not going to back down for you, and we're clearly not going to back down for them. That's what you expect, and that's why you play the game," Fried said. "Those are the games you enjoy. Games when you come out, you compete, you're pressed to do things under duress, and it's great for the coaching staff because we get to see who reacts appropriately to that style of play."

The U.S. increased its defensive intensity Sunday, pressuring away from the cage and forcing the Wildcats' hand, especially in the first half when Northwestern turned the ball over 13 times.

With attacking, high-energy play came a bevy of yellow cards for both sides. Seven of the game's 22 goals were scored in player-up situations, including four of Team USA's first seven scores, which put the Wildcats in an early 7-0 hole.

"We talked about the pressure they were going to bring, but sometimes you don't realize it until you feel that pressure," Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. "They have great kids top to bottom that have great fundamentals and they're always good at those little things. They're battling and they're battling together. They did a great job putting pressure on us and swarming us. We couldn't handle it in the beginning."

When asked what her team needs to work on during a post-game television interview, Amonte Hiller said, "ground balls." Just ground balls? "Pretty much." As they struggled to pick up loose balls and committed several costly turnovers, the Wildcats didn't sustain many extended possessions in the opening period.

But Northwestern settled in after intermission, playing to a 9-5 score in the second half and showing what makes them Lacrosse Magazine's preseason top-ranked team. Junior midfielders Amanda Macaluso and Erin Fitzgerald scored two goals apiece, and sophomore Kelly Rich tacked on one.

Thornton and Shannon Smith, both training with Team USA this weekend, played for Northwestern in Sunday's opener, then suited up for the red, white and blue and faced their current teammates in the second matchup. Thornton joked after the game, "I feel like I'm about on 'E' with the tank."

Thornton, though, was everywhere on the field — marking All-World attacker Munday, pushing the ball in transition, getting involved on the offensive end.

"She's just tenacious," Munday said. "You see her out there, she's always excited. She loves lacrosse, and she really goes out every single play at 100 percent. If you can do that, with her athleticism, it's a really good combination."

Munday's three assists Sunday gave her six helpers this weekend, four of which went through Dowd, who ended up scoring 13 combined goals in three games.

"Katrina is so quick and she's so athletic, and it's really hard to stop her," Munday said. "If you stop her one way, she's going to beat you another way. It's not like she has one thing in her arsenal, and she can really beat you a number of different ways. She's a really fun player to watch, and a really fun player to play with."

Players without ties to Northwestern contributed, too. Katie Rowan and Sarah Bullard added four and two goals, respectively for Team USA, which will see its 38-member roster trimmed to 24 shortly in preparation for the summer's tour in Canada. Fried said the coaching staff would hold a conference call within the next two days, and they'll inform the team of their decisions by the end of the week.

"It's going to be some really, really difficult decisions to make, and that's great problem to have as a coach. Difficult to do, but a great problem to have," Fried said. "We're going to be looking for the best dynamic. One of the biggest things we're going to focus on is decision-making. Not skills, necessarily, because they all have skills. Not athleticism. But who's making the right decision within the context of how we want to play, and that's going to be the biggest factor for us."

Champion Challenge, a US Lacrosse Event

Team USA Women 16, Northwestern 6

USA: 7 9 - 16
Northwestern: 1 5 - 6

Goals - USA: Dowd 4, Rowan 4, Munday 3, Bullard 2, Spencer 1, Zimmerman 1, Berger 1; Northwestern: Macaluso 2, Fitzgerald 2, Thornton 1, Rich 1
Assists - USA: Munday 3, Dowd 1, Bullard 1, Spencer 1, Walker 1, Russell 1
Saves - USA: Wills 2, Huether 7; Northwestern: LoManto 11

Team USA Women 18, Northwestern 1

Goals - USA: Byers 5, Schwarzmann 2, Donohoe 2, Cannizzaro 2, Etrasco 2, Ancarrow 2, Carey 1, Smith 1, Tumolo 1; Northwestern: DeRonda 1
Assists - USA: Schwarzmann 3, Tumolo 3, Carey 2, Donohoe 2, Smith 2, Byers 1, Cannizzaro 1, Etrasco 1
Saves - Northwestern: Bianco 9, Jones 3

Team England 10, Maryland 9

England: 3 7 - 10
Maryland: 6 3 - 9

Goals - England: Merrifield 3, Brett 2, Gray 2, Barnsley 1, Smith 1, Lafferty 1; Maryland: Aust 3, Griffin 2, Collins 2, Slandra 1, Black 1
Assists - England: Lynch 2, Merrifield 1, Barnsley 1, Bennett 1; Maryland: Aust 1, Lamon 1, Mendez 1, Meredith 1
Saves - England: Keogh 5, Gaunt 3; Maryland: Howard 4, Clipp 2

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