Playing in just their second season in Division 1 lacrosse, the Colorado Buffaloes (2-1) didn't shy away against one of the sport's perennial powers. For the first 30 minutes the Buffs played No. 7 Northwestern (4-2) even. But in their first true home game of the season at Lakeside Field, the Wildcats came out strong in the second half thanks to stellar play from freshmen Selena Lasota (5 goals) and Corinne Wessels (5 assists), and pulled away to win 14-8.
What has to make coach Kelly Amonte Hiller happy was the high-quality play of her freshman all over the field. Lasota, the most heralded member of the stellar recruiting class Hiller brought in, displayed her complete game with several draw controls and five scores, despite being face guarded the entire game. On most of her goals, Lasota took on multiple defenders by herself and finished emphatically. She had to step up on offense with senior Kara Mupo sidelined with an injury.
Two other freshman also stood out for Northwestern. Wessels and Shelby Fredericks combined for three goals, including the opener. The high school Under Armour All-Americans appear to have already developed a chemistry, with Wessels passing from behind the net to a cutting Fredericks on multiple occasions.
"We have three freshman on attack and they’re starting to gain some leadership. Kaleigh [Craig] is doing a pretty good job leading them as well," Amonte Hiller said. "I think the chemistry is good out there."
The young Buffaloes team--they only have one junior on the roster--has to be proud of themselves for hanging with the Wildcats throughout the first half. But in the end, Northwestern proved to be too much. Goalkeeper Bridget Bianco did her part to keep the Buffaloes off the scoreboard, recording her second straight 13-save game.
"When you know that someone is going to come up with that save, or at least give you a good chance, it makes a big difference in your confidence and you can take more chances," Amonte Hiller said.
Colorado played the Wildcats tough throughout, with strong defensive stands and a penetrating offensive attack. But the Buffs will rue the missed opportunities, combined with a phenomenal performance from Bianco.
The game started to open up in the second half, after a series of impressive individual goals from both teams brought the score to 6-6. Lasota took on two defenders, splitting the double team before finishing in the high corner. Blair Sisk for Colorado came back with a crafty spin move and then a shot into the top corner to tie the game again. After that, Fredericks had a spin move of her own in store for the Buffalo defense before sidearming the shot into the bottom corner to give Northwestern the lead. NU began to pull away after that, as Colorado could not keep up with the Wildcats' offensive firepower and began to wilt from the relentless defensive pressure.
The Wildcats now have two weeks to prepare for their next opponent, No. 6 Syracuse.