Jill Doherty took on Northwestern and nearly won.
Vanderbilt’s freshman midfielder scored five of the Commodores’ nine goals, including four in the first half, plus she assisted on another. Her teammates were mostly shut down by the Wildcats, though, as NU won, 12-9, in the first round of the ALC Tournament.
The Cats had their own scoring machine: Kara Mupo also knocked in five goals, tying a career-high.
“She’s just gained a little bit of confidence in the last few games and she’s being aggressive,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said.
But NU got contributions from all over the field, with two scores each from Alyssa Leonard and Kelly Rich, and one a piece from Kat DeRonda, Kate MacDonald and Christy Turner.
Early on, it looked like the game might turn into a shootout. Each team had scored four goals by the 17-minute mark of the first half. After that, things slowed down.
“Offensively, I think we came out strong,” Amonte Hiller said. “We played controlled. Our sets were doing great and then as we gained a little bit of momentum, I felt like we started to get rushed.”
Neither team scored for the next five minutes, until NU’s Jess Carroll caused a turnover and found Kara Mupo cutting in front of the net for the score.
Another drought followed, this one over nine minutes long before Kelly Rich knocked one in for the Cats to give them a 6-4 lead.
Vanderbilt finally got on the board again after a 16-minute scoreless block. The left-handed Doherty easily hit a free position shot from the right side to bring the Commodores back within one going into halftime.
NU goalie Bridget Bianco faced a lot of shots early on but was able to find her comfort zone toward the end of the first half.
“I think there were wide open looks on her,” Amonte Hiller said. “That’s tough as a goalie. You’ve got to try to help your goalie out as much as possible, get low-angle shots and give them a chance to make that save.”
The halftime adjustments focused largely on Doherty and how to get her under control.
“We just talked about her quite a bit. We’ve got to be aware of her, we’ve got to try to get a match-up and slow her down because she was just dominant,” Amonte Hiller said.
The slow pace continued in the second half until NU began to pull away with nine minutes left.
After a Mupo goal, Turner picked up a loose draw control and quickly covered the wide open space in front of her, hitting the shot just 12 seconds after Mupo’s score.
With a two goal lead, NU began to employ the full-field press, playing aggressive on the ball and then holding it for long offensive possessions.
The NU-Vanderbilt series hasn’t been much of a competition in the past, with the Cats taking 14 of 17 meetings between the two. They beat the Commodores earlier this year at Lakeside Field, 15-9. But just because the scores haven’t been competitive doesn’t mean there isn’t some feistiness on the field. Leonard and Vanderbilt’s Kelly Chandler, the draw control specialists for their respective teams, pushed and shoved all game. Vanderbilt’s coach, Cathy Swezy, mentioned that the two won’t be best friends any time soon.
“They don’t really like each other,” she said before the game. “They’re both very good at reading each other’s nuances.”
Leonard came out on top this time, with 10 draw controls to Chandler’s two.
The win gives NU 14-1 all-time record in ALC Tournament, its only loss being to Florida, this year’s No. 1 seed, in 2012.
The Cats move on to play in the second round on Friday night. They’ll take on the winner of Ohio State and Michigan.