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Leonard breaks all-time draw control record in win over Michigan

Now that’s more like it.

Alyssa Leonard broke the NCAA record for career draw controls and No. 8 Northwestern breezed to a much-needed 20-6 victory over the Michigan Wolverines on Tuesday at The Big House.

The Wildcats scored the first 10 goals of the game to snap a two-game skid and beat a winless Michigan team in its inaugural season.

“I was pretty disappointed with those last two games,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “ We wanted to come out and start fresh and take a step forward. We still need to improve a lot but we’re headed in the right direction.”

Leonard entered Tuesday three draw controls shy of the all-time record of 353 held by Vermont’s Kristen Millar (2006-09). The senior Wildcat finished the game with nine draw controls, increasing her season tally to 53 and her career mark to 359. Leonard, who also leads NU in scoring with 13 goals, netted a hat trick in the win.

“I think it’s a great accomplishment,” Leonard said of the record.  “But in the long run we haven’t done anything as a team this season yet.”

Leonard also mentioned that she will not be “happy” with her draw controls until she wins “every single draw in every single game.” It is Leonard’s unrelenting drive to win that stands out to her coach.

“[Leonard’s] talented physically but it’s her competitiveness that drives her,” Amonte Hiller said. “She helps us a lot. The ability to control the draw is pivotal.”

The ‘Cats won 18 of the 28 draw controls, outshot Michigan 32-16 and grabbed 13 ground balls to MU’s six. NU sophomore Kaleigh Craig led all scorers with four goals.

With the win the ‘Cats move to 1-1 in American Lacrosse Conference and 4-2 overall. Florida and Ohio State, who defeated NU in overtime Sunday, are tied atop the league standings.

NU gets a nearly two-week break before its next contest, a match-up at Syracuse on March 23 in what should be a litmus test for the ‘Cats. The Orange are 6-1 overall and have wins over three ranked opponents in Virginia, Boston College and Towson.

“We have a little layoff before our next game. We’ll use it for preparation and growth,” Amonte Hiller said. “We need to get better in a lot of different areas.”

Side Notes:

-After the game Leonard mentioned that the starting line-up is still fluctuating and that players are “winning spots every day at practice.” It will be interesting to see how the line-up changes over these next couple weeks.

-Amonte Hiller sounded relieved to have eleven days to prepare for Syracuse and to practice outdoors. NU’s last extended layoff did not seem to pay off—the ‘Cats had eight days to prepare for Notre Dame.

-The ‘Cats have not lost to Syracuse since May of 2003, having beaten the Cuse 11 consecutive times. However, Northwestern has seen two of its longest winning streaks end this season to the Irish (14-game streak) and the Buckeyes (10-game streak).