ND Women’s Lacrosse
Late goal lifts Northwestern over Notre Dame
Alex Carson | Friday, April 17, 2015
Sophomore midfielder Sheila Nesselbush scored with just under four minutes left to give No. 7 Northwestern a 10-9 win over rival No. 11 Notre Dame on Thursday at Arlotta Stadium.
The Wildcats (10-4, 2-1 Big Ten) jumped out to an early lead on the strength of their leading scorer, as a trio of quick goals from freshman attack Selena Lasota helped put the visitors ahead 4-1 just 10:45 into the game.
Irish sophomore attack Cortney Fortunato scored her first goal of the game unassisted with 13 minutes left in the first half to cut into the lead, but Northwestern junior midfielder Kaleigh Craig answered nearly four minutes later, restoring her team’s three-goal advantage.
From there, the Irish (9-6, 3-3 ACC) started chipping away.
With 5:28 left in the half, Notre Dame sophomore attack Grace Muller scored to make it 5-3. The Irish kept knocking and got one more goal before halftime, when senior midfielder Caitlin Gargan tallied her second of the night with just 1:07 left in the half.
Gargan, who finished the game with a hat trick, said Northwestern’s focus on other targets helped her get scoring opportunities.
“I was just able to exploit — they keyed on Cortney, they keyed on [sophomore midfielder] Casey [Pearsall] when she was in the game, they were paying attention to her, so my teammates getting a lot of attention really helped me out tonight,” she said.
In the second half, neither team was able to pull away. The game was tied on five occasions, with neither team holding anything but a one-goal advantage the rest of the way.
Fortunato scored her second goal and 50th of the season on a goal assisted by Pearsall just 5:26 into the second half to tie the game at five.
But Lasota, who also passed the 50-goal mark Thursday, got on the scoresheet for the fourth and final time two minutes later to give Northwestern the advantage.
Then the Irish answered, scoring twice in 55 seconds to take their first lead of the game. Gargan completed her hat trick on a goal assisted by sophomore attack Heidi Annaheim before junior attack Rachel Sexton put Notre Dame ahead 7-6 with 18:23 left to play.
A recurring trend then started to develop. Northwestern tied the game at seven when Craig scored her second of the night, but less than a minute later, Annaheim scored an odd goal to put the Irish back ahead.
While Northwestern senior goalkeeper Bridget Bianco initially saved Annaheim’s shot, the ball bounced off her body well into the air, coming back to earth, bouncing and spinning into the net for the Notre Dame goal.
This time, it took five minutes for the Wildcats to draw level, as redshirt senior attack Kara Mupo beat Irish sophomore goaltender Liz O’Sullivan with 11 minutes remaining to even the score once more.
O’Sullivan finished with nine saves on 19 goal-bound Wildcats shots, a mark above her save percentage (41.7 percent) entering the game.
“Liz O’Sullivan had a great night, man,” Halfpenny said. “She came up with nine huge saves when we needed them.”
Notre Dame took its final lead of the game 39 seconds later when junior midfielder Stephanie Toy scored an unassisted goal off a rebound, but once again, could not hold on to the advantage in the game’s final 10 minutes.
Craig finished her hat trick with five minutes to bring the Wildcats level at nine, setting the stage for Nesselbush’s goal to win the game.
Notre Dame had chances late but ultimately could not beat Bianco, who finished with nine saves.
“She’s a good goaltender. We’ve seen her now four years in a row,” Gargan said. “She has a little bit of an unorthodox style that we’re not used to seeing, so we don’t get that look every day in practice.”
While the two teams were statistically similar in most areas on the night, Northwestern dominated the draw controls, securing eight of 10 in the first half en route to a 13-7 edge overall.
“We had a really off night,” Halfpenny said. “[We had] 20 turnovers. I hadn’t seen 20 turnovers from this team in a while. … The reality is, you’ve got to credit Northwestern — they did a great job winning the draw control battle, and we knew that would be something that would really push the game one way or the other.”
The Irish are straight back in action Sunday, when they host No. 14 Lousiville in the final game of the regular season.
The Cardinals (9-6, 1-5 ACC) have lost three straight games, including a 16-8 loss to No. 9 Syracuse yesterday. However, Louisville may have an advantage on the draws against Notre Dame; junior midfielder Kaylin Morissette is second nationally, averaging 11.3 draw controls per game.
“They have an outstanding draw control specialist. … She’s really, really strong,” Halfpenny said.
With a win, Notre Dame would finish the conference slate with a winning record and get positive momentum back heading into the conference tournament.
“It would be huge for us to win going into the ACC tournament,” Gargan said. “Last year, we were kind of limping into the ACC tournament, so I think it would be a huge boost to our confidence. … And I think we want it. It’s our last home game.
“We know what’s at stake.”
The first draw between the Irish and Cardinals is scheduled for noon Sunday at Arlotta Stadium.