The game was closer than expected but in the end, No. 4 Northwestern is moving on.
The Wildcats beat No. 8 Penn State, 9-8, in overtime on Friday to clinch a spot in the ALC Championship game.
“It wasn’t our best overall day in terms of play,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said, “but I think we had some great moments so that was exciting. To beat a great team like this was big.”
Senior Amanda Macaluso was the hero of this one, netting the game-winning goal with 45 seconds left in the first half of overtime. It was the second goal of the night for midfielder.
Fellow senior Taylor Thornton also played hero, causing a turnover at the end of regulation to deny Penn State a last-second game-winner. It was one of three caused turnovers on the night for the midfielder, who also knocked in two goals.
Penn State (12-6, 4-1 ALC) took the first lead four minutes into the game, but junior Alyssa Leonard tied it a few minutes later.
Thornton scored her two goals in a two and a half minute timeframe, split by a Penn State goal as the Cats took a 3-2 lead.
On the proceeding draw control, senior Gabriella Flibotte took the ball from midfield to the net to give NU their first multiple-goal lead. However, the sophomore Kelly Lechner, the Nittany Lions’ second-leading scorer, scored the next two goals to tie the game at four.
The Cats responded with a run of three goals from seniors Ali Cassera and Erin Fitzgerald and junior Kat DeRonda. Penn State added one just before half to pull within 7-5.
Macaluso netted her first goal of the game just after halftime, but it was the only goal NU would score in the half. The Nittany Lions scored three goals over the last 25 minutes to tie the game at eight with four minutes remaining.
NU had a chance to win the game in regulation but was called for an offensive foul that instead gave Penn State the final possession. Thornton stepped in to cause a turnover in the last 10 seconds and send the game to overtime.
Although NU had not played an overtime game since March 2012, they knew what Penn State strategy would be—attack the big guns.
“I knew they’d be kind of keying in on Erin and Taylor so I thought maybe we’d change it up and call something a little bit different,” Amonte Hiller said. “The first look wasn’t there and that’s our second look on that play and (Macaluso) really executed it.”
After Macaluso’s goal, Flibotte won the draw control to help NU drain the remaining 45 seconds from the first overtime. In the second half of overtime, the Nittany Lions won the draw but lost the ball, which Cassera picked up. The Cats held on to the ball to preserve the victory.
NU (16-2, 4-1 ALC) will move on the Championship game for the seventh time in the seven year history of the tournament. They will match up on Sunday against No. 2 Florida (17-1, 4-1 ALC), who handed the Cats the worst defeat in their history, 22-4, on April 20. The Gators are also the only team to ever beat NU in the ALC Tournament, winning last year’s Championship, 14-7.
Florida beat Ohio State, 17-3, in their semi-finals match on Friday.
“We just need to play together,” Amonte Hiller said. “We’ve changed a lot of things, we’ve really evaluated things and I think our girls have really looked inside themselves and made changes. They’re really excited for this opportunity to go up against a great team like Florida and see what they can do.”