Just four minutes into their second game of the season, Northwestern saw their national player of the year contender go down with an injury. Selena Lasota, who was sidelined two years ago with a knee injury, was helped off the field after tallying the first two goals of the game in quick succession against Dartmouth on Friday.
But the Wildcat attack never lost a beat, tallying 21 goals to take down the Big Green and then matching the feat with some late heroics to take down Duke. Lauren Gilbert scored nine goals, Lindsey McKone added five scores and four assists, and both factored into critical late game sequences against the Blue Devils.
Against Dartmouth, after briefly reeling from Lasota’s injury, the Wildcats (3-0) dominated. The 25th-ranked Big Green tied things up at two early on, but Northwestern never again relinquished the lead, tallying ten of the first half’s final thirteen goals to go up 12-5 at the break.
From there, the Wildcats cruised all the way to a 21-15 win. Sophomore goalkeeper Julie Krupnick allowed 15 goals, but set a career high with a whopping 16 saves, denying Dartmouth at the doorstep time and again. Gilbert and McKone led the way, but 11 Northwestern players ended up with a goal and an additional two recorded assists.
Things didn’t go quite as smoothly on Sunday afternoon against the Blue Devils. Winning three straight draw controls to start the game, and six of the initial ten, the Wildcats once again showed an ability to score nearly at will by racing to a 6-4 advantage.
But Duke came roaring back. Draw specialist Maddie Jenner and her equally impressive older sister Olivia flexed their muscles with seven straight draw controls, which Duke used to go on a 7-0 run and take an 11-6 lead.
Kelly Amonte Hiller, who continued to throw different draw combinations at the Blue Devils, finally hit on one that worked late in the first half after a judicious timeout. Thanks to a couple of crucial wins from Greta Stahl, Northwestern recorded three straight goals of their own to cut the halftime score to 12-10.
After a first half that outscored the last full meeting between these two teams (Duke took a 9-8 slugfest last year), things calmed down a bit. Julie Krupnick, who had struggled to just two saves during the first half onslaught, made a couple of huge plays in the net, and three more unassisted goals thrust Northwestern back into the lead for the first time since early in the first half.
From there, the two teams swapped small leads, with both defenses lacking the momentum-swinging stop they needed. With 11 minutes to go, after a pair of penalty kills, the Blue Devils held a one goal advantage.
But a key draw control from typical draw specialist Brennan Dwyer allowed Claire Quinn to rip a right-handed shot and complete her hat trick, retying things. Then, an ensuing free-position goal for Gilbert, her fourth of the contest, gave Northwestern back the lead.
But finally, it looked like Duke had put the finishing touches on things. Within a 90-second span, Charlotte North wrapped two goals around a score from Olivia Jenner, and Northwestern was scrambling.
Duke’s replacement goalkeeper, Chase Henriquez, made a couple of massive saves before Gilbert stopped the bleeding with another free-position goal. The Blue Devils won the ensuing draw, though, and had a chance to just about ice things with less than three minutes to play.
Carson Copeland had other plans. The sophomore defender, who had struggled along with the rest of the back line on a high-octane offensive day, came up with a crucial turnover. And after McKone missed a wide-open opportunity in front of the net, she won the ball back with a successful forecheck, setting up senior Liza Elder to tie things up.
With the score tied and just over a minute to play, Dwyer won the most important draw of the game. Then McKone, after setting up the game-tying goal just moments before, gave the Wildcats the lead with 25 seconds to play.
Another Dwyer draw control later, and Lauren Gilbert ran out the clock, giving Northwestern a nail-biting, heart-pounding, 21-20 win.
North, the elder Jenner, and Catherine Cordrey combined for 14 goals in a valiant effort for the Blue Devils. The Wildcats, who tallied their 21 goals on just 35 shots, had six players score multiple times and only recorded three assists on the game.
Next week, with the status of Lasota still up in the air, Northwestern (now ranked fifth on the Inside Lacrosse poll) will head to upstate New York to take on seventh-ranked Syracuse before a clash with Canisius.