After a back-and-forth encounter in Boulder on Sunday afternoon, Northwestern lacrosse fell 11-10 on a golden goal from Colorado’s Katie Macleay.
Northwestern (2-1) was coming off a solid road win against a ranked Notre Dame team but struggled to find a groove in its road contest against the Buffaloes (1-0). Neither side led by more than one goal for the final 38 minutes, but Colorado survived a game-tying goal from Northwestern’s Christina Esposito to win in overtime.
Esposito scored the game’s first goal, which was her eighth of the season. But the early advantage was squandered as Colorado scored three goals in five minutes to establish a 3-1 lead. Northwestern fought back with an impressive scoring run of its own as Esposito, Catie Ingrilli and Ellie Yenor all scored in a 2:40 stretch to make it 4-3 in favor of the Wildcats.
The teams traded scores to close out the first half, with Colorado scoring twice in a row to make it 5-4 and then Northwestern roaring back with two goals in the final three minutes to make it 6-5.
The game turned in the beginning of the second half as Selena Lasota uncharacteristically missed a free position shot and had another saved by Paige Soenksen within a 30-second span. Colorado then had a shot go off the post before Kelsie Garrison tied the game on a free position shot of her own with 23:56 left to play. Northwestern’s inability to extend its lead early in the second half came back to haunt the Wildcats, as Kelly Amonte Hiller’s team was unable to put the Buffaloes away despite outshooting Colorado 39-25.
The two teams exchanged goals again before Esposito completed her hat-trick to put Northwestern up 8-7 with 12:58 remaining. The Wildcats won the subsequent draw control, but in a stunning series of events, committed a turnover and gave up two Colorado goals in 20 seconds. Lasota responded with a goal to tie the game at 9, but Northwestern squandered another chance to finally take control.
Colorado went up again on a goal from Sarah Brown, but Northwestern was granted plenty of time to tie or win the game in regulation. However, Soenksen made three key saves to keep Northwestern off the scoreboard until Esposito finally notched the equalizer with just over a minute left. Northwestern then won the ensuing draw control but failed to convert, setting up a potential game-winning free position attempt for Colorado’s Miranda Stinson, whose shot was saved by Mallory Weisse, sending the game to overtime.
With Colorado’s offense having gone silent for the past 10 minutes, Northwestern appeared to have the advantage in overtime. However, Colorado took the opening draw control and drew a foul. Johnna Fusco then rifled in a pass to set up the game-winning shot for Macleay, who quickly turned around and beat keeper Weisse to score the golden goal.
Northwestern fell victim to a great game from Colorado’s Soenksen, who stopped 11 shots and withstood strong Wildcat pressure for nearly the entire game. There were multiple moments in which the game could’ve gotten away for Colorado, but the Buffs held strong to record a big upset in its first game of the season.
Northwestern will have its work cut out for itself as it continues a two-game Pac-12 trip with a game at No. 4 USC on February 12th. Colorado also sets out on the road, playing Massachusetts and Stetson this weekend.