by Callie Counsellor (@CCounsellor)
What Erin Fitzgerald is doing on the field may not surprise anyone, but it is highly impressive nonetheless.
The senior scored 11 goals in to lead No. 4 Northwestern (7-1, 2-0 ALC) to two wins this week, a 15-12 victory over Navy on Monday and a 16-3 rout of Harvard on Saturday.
“She’s just working really hard on the field,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “She’s all over the place, getting caused turnovers, scoring goals, making plays. She’s really been a leader for us.”
In the last four games, Fitzgerald has notched 21 goals, giving her a total of 28 for the year. She has been able to fill the offensive void left by NU’s all-time leading scorer Shannon Smith, who graduated last year and now serves as the head coach of Hofstra’s women’s lacrosse team.
Fitzgerald’s five goals against Navy (8-1, 2-0 Patriot) helped the Wildcats pull away in the final 14 minutes.
After an initial 2-0 lead by Navy, the two teams traded leads throughout the first half and for the first 15 minutes of the second, with neither team gaining more than a two-point advantage.
With the scored tied at 10-10 and just under 15 minutes to play, junior Alyssa Leonard knocked one in to give the Cats their fourth lead of the day. That set off a streak of five straight goals for NU, including two Fitzgerald goals, and the Cats led 15-10 with just under seven minutes to go.
Navy mounted a comeback and came within three with four minutes remaining but NU won the ensuing draw control and protected the lead down the stretch.
The Cats won the same field where they first hoisted the National Championship trophy in 2005 after their victory over University of Virginia.
“This field (Memorial Stadium) is special to me and to our program,” Amonte Hiller said, “so we really enjoy coming here and have so much respect for their program."
The Cats’ offensive surge continued into their match against Harvard (0-4, 0-2 Ivy).
Fitzgerald started the scoring for NU with a shot to the upper right corner a minute and a half into the game.
NU controlled possession for few minutes while Harvard looked unsettled by the Cats’ pressure.
“It was the game plan,” Amonte Hiller said. “We tried to put a little pressure on Navy last week and we didn’t play very well when we did it so we wanted to get right back at it and see what we could do.”
NU built a five goal lead before Harvard got on the board with 11 minutes left before halftime.
NU took a 7-1 lead into the break but could have led by more. The Cats took 17 shots, aided by 21 Harvard fouls, but only converted 41 percent of them, below their 46 percent average for the season.
Harvard came out of halftime quickly with two goals in the first four minutes but the momentum stopped there as NU scored nine unanswered goals to finish the game.
The Cats will take an 11 day break for finals week at NU before returning to Lakeside Field to take on No. 15 Ohio State (3-4, 0-0 ALC) on March 27.
“The kids are going to get a little bit of a break and then we’re going to get right back to it,” Amonte Hiller said. “We have the opportunity to put a lot of new stuff in and just work on the stuff that we feel like we need to have worked on.”