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Northwestern uses strong second half to pull away from Notre Dame, advance to Elite Eight

Northwestern started slow, but ended the game on a 13-5 run to get the victory and move on to the Elite Eight.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

It was a wet, dreary Mother's Day at Lakeside Field, but on the field, Northwestern and Notre Dame kept things hot. In a high-scoring affair, the Wildcats emerged victorious, 16-11, to set up an Elite Eight matchup with top-ranked Maryland next week.

The victory moved the Wildcats to 22-0 all-time at Lakeside Field in NCAA tournament games.

The first half was, for the most part, a sloppy one. The two teams combined for 21 turnovers throughout the first 30 minutes. By the end of the game, that number rose to 33.

The excitement picked up in the last five minutes of the first half though. Down 6-3, NU coach Kelly Amonte Hiller called a timeout, and the Wildcats came out of the break firing. They went on a 4-1 run to end the half, erasing the 3-goal deficit and making it 7-7 at the break.

"We talked at a timeout," Amonte Hiller said. "We said, 'We need to wake up and play fearlessly. We don't want to wake up tomorrow and be thinking about not having put it all out there.' That's what our girls did the rest of the time."

Junior Kaleigh Craig had an outstanding first half, matching her career high with four goals, and scoring her last with five seconds left to give the team some much needed momentum going into the break.

"At that point, you just have to go for it if you see something," Craig said afterwards. "I really wanted to give us some momentum going into halftime and it's a good way to spark the team."

Craig's career half continued into a career game, as she netted her fifth goal with 12:30 remaining to give the Wildcats a 13-9 lead. That proved to be the nail in the coffin for the Fighting Irish.

Selena Lasota was quiet for much of the first half, as Notre Dame employed a face-guarder to track her all across the field. Lasota did manage an important goal that jumpstarted her team's run to end the half though.

Lasota exploded in the second half, however, erupting for two quick goals to give her a hat trick. She took a handoff for her third goal, enduring bumps from two defenders before running past a third and finishing top-shelf to give the Wildcats a 10-7 lead with 24:44 left in the game.

Lasota finished with five goals on the day, moving her into 10th place on Northwestern's all-time single-season goals list. Her fourth was one of her patented free-position rockets, giving her 67 on the year.

Sophomore Sheila Nesselbush also finished with a career high, scoring four goals – including two right after halftime that were critical to the Wildcats keeping the momentum they had gained at the end of the first half. Down 6-3 with five minutes to go in the first, Northwestern went on a 9-2 run to secure the game and ensure their advancement into the next round.

The team will travel to College Park, MD to take on the top-seeded Terrapins, who beat Massachusetts earlier in the day 19-8. The Wildcats lost to the Terrapins 16-5 to open Big Ten play this season.