A sunny, Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia ended in disappointment for Northwestern lacrosse. The Wildcats forced overtime after battling back from a huge second-half deficit, but ultimately lost by a score of 14-13 to Penn at Franklin Field.
Penn's Nina Corcoran ended the sudden-death overtime period when she took the ball from behind the net, juked out her defender and beat freshman goalie Mallory Weisse. Penn won the opening draw of overtime and Northwestern, despite aggressive defense, never had possession in that final period.
After last week's demolition at the hands of Maryland, this was always going to be a big game for the Wildcats. Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller won't be satisfied with the loss, but she has to be proud of the comeback her team mounted after going down by 7 early in the second half.
The comeback was keyed by the newly-dominant Shelby Fredericks in the draw control circle, a more dynamic offense with crisp passing and better ball movement. Northwestern also used an aggressive defense, which doubled without hesitation and forced the Penn offense into bad decisions and errant passes.
In the end, however, it is going to be hard to score without touching the ball. Next year, women's lacrosse will institute a 30-second shot clock of sorts, but for now, there is none and once Penn won the opening draw of overtime, it was going to sit on the ball until it had a great look, which Corcoran, the captain, put away to secure victory for the Quakers.
Without versatile midfielder and team leader Sheila Nesselbush, who is lost for the season to a leg injury, Northwestern look out of sorts for most of the game, doing well in the middle of the first half but bookending that good play with poor decisions and undisciplined defense that allowed Penn to take a 7-4 lead into the break.
Junior Christina Esposito had a great first half, scoring a hat trick and was able to dictate the offense from behind the crease — her play helped key the comeback, as well. Esposito would score her fourth of the game as part of a 6-0 Northwestern run which helped lead to the late tie.
Penn scored two quick goals to start the second half, forcing Amonte Hiller to call timeout to regroup her team. It did not help much, as Penn eventually stretched its lead to 12-5, before Northwestern began picking away at it.
Fredericks was able to dominate at the draw controls, often winning them to herself before initiating the offense and senior Kaleigh Craig had a phenomenal second half, scoring four goals.
When Penn was able to force a turnover or win the ball, its players quickly found themselves aggressively doubled, forcing them into poor decisions which usually gave Northwestern the ball back soon after losing it.
However, when the defense needed one last stand to give the offense a chance to win the game, it could not come up with it and losses like these hurt, especially when it comes to seeding and opponents in the NCAA tournament.