No. 4 Northwestern only led for five and a half minutes, but luckily for them it was the last five and a half minutes of the game.
The Wildcats surged back against an upset-minded Ohio State squad to take the 9-8 victory at Lakeside Field on Wednesday. NU extended its win streak to 10 straight against the Buckeyes.
Senior Erin Fitzgerald, who had 21 goals in the previous four games, went scoreless until late in the second half of Wednesday’s match but fellow senior Taylor Thornton stepped up for NU with four goals on five shots, despite being double-teamed all night. Two of her scores came off of free position shots.
“All week we’ve been working on free positions with (coach) Kelly (Amonte Hiller), recognizing your space,” Thornton said. “I noticed to go low so I tried to make (OSU goalie Tori DeScenza) bend as much. She’s a great, phenomenal goalie so I wanted to make her bend as much as I could and I think it translated.”
Senior Amanda Macaluso added two goals, including the go-ahead score. She attacked from the right side of the cage, dodged two defenders and shot low into the net for the 9-8 lead.
NU, who had struggled on draw controls all night, won the subsequent draw control and ran out over four minutes of clock until the Buckeyes forced a turnover with a minute to play.
Ohio State attempted to attack for the game-tying goal but Thornton and senior Ali Cassera double-teamed the ball carrier and Cassera was able to knock the ball loose at midfield. NU ran out the remaining 54 seconds to seal the comeback victory.
NU (8-1, 3-0 ALC) started uncharacteristically slow after an 11-day break due to finals week. The Wildcats trailed after just more than a minute of play, then went down 2-0 after ten minutes.
Thornton finally put the Cats on the board with her first of four goals on the day, followed three minutes later by a score from senior Alyssa Leonard to tie the game at 2-2.
The Buckeyes scored the next three goals to take a 5-2 lead with 9:24 left in the first half. Goals by freshman Nancy Dunbar and Macaluso brought the Cats back within one at halftime. Ohio State (3-6, 0-2 ALC) held NU to its lowest halftime score of the season at four, tied with the match against North Carolina which the Cats lost.
Turnovers in the midfield hurt the Cats in the first half, as did draw controls, which Ohio State led 6-4 at the break. NU turned it around in the second period, winning six of eight draw controls including the last four of the match.
The Cats return to Lakeside Field on Saturday to face Syracuse (5-2, 1-0 Big East), a rematch of last year’s national championship game which NU came back to win 8-6.
“It’s going to be a national championship style game,” Thornton said. “It’s going to be exciting, it’s going to be a fast-paced game, it’s going to be gritty and we’re excited.”