Northwestern Uses Season-Best Effort to Upend UAlbany in NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals
Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information
Courtesy: UAlbany Athletics
Evanston, Ill. - Tewaaraton Award finalist Shannon Smith scored four of her five goals in the first half, as Northwestern put together a convincing 18-4 victory over UAlbany in the NCAA Tournament's quarterfinal round on Saturday, May 21 at Lakeside Field. The Wildcats advanced to semifinals for the seventh consecutive year. Northwestern (19-2) showed why they have won five national championships by playing a nearly perfect opening period. Leading 2-1, the Wildcats ripped off five unanswered. Jessica Russo connected on a free-position attempt from the left point, before Smith finished off Alyssa Leonard's crossing pass with a sidearm blast to the far post. Kelly Rich added another free-position goal and Smith scored off a wraparound from the right of the crease. Taylor Thornton ended the run by going coast-to-coast after the visitors committed a turnover. UAlbany (18-1) came back with a pair of goals midway through the period. Ariana Parker drove from the left to the middle and drilled a shot inside the post. Allie Phelan then converted a free-position opportunity with a bounce shot from the right. The Great Danes, who defeated Dartmouth in their first-ever NCAA appearance last week, were looking to cut into the lead even more, but NU goalkeeper Brianne LoManto thwarted Jodi Battaglia from point-blank range. The Wildcats turned the save into a scoring play in transition. Erin Fitzgerald eluded a triple-team in the middle of the field to beat goalkeeper Brett Yenger in a one-on-one situation. The decisive sequence keyed a string of six consecutive goals. "They are hard to mimic, because they are so skilled and athletic," stated Battaglia, who scored twice, including her school-record 56th of the season. "We came out flat-footed and didn't handle their pressure as well. You can't can do that in lacrosse because it results in two-goal swings." In that outburst to end the half, Russo and Rich tallied goals 58 seconds apart. Russo rolled underneath a defender from the right and Rich dodged from the left side. Amanda Macaluso added a bounce shot from with a free-position chance and Fitzgerald worked her way to goal after a restart for a 13-3 halftime advantage. "We tried to prepare for their speed and intensity," said UAlbany coach John Battaglino, who led the program to an America East Conference championship in his first season. "It is hard to generate that in practice with just fifteen field players. But that is the best that I have seen them play. They capitalize on every mistake or error and our hats are off to them." Smith, one of five finalists for the nation's top player award, finished with five goals and one assist for the nation's second-ranked team. Fitzgerald, who handed one assist and Rich each scored three times. UAlbany's Brett Yenger played the entire sixty minutes at goalkeeper and made five saves, as suspended starter Anna Berman did not make the trip." "We realize what we did and to able to set the makr," offered UAlbany senior Nikki Branchini about her team's accomplishments this season. "It's a great feeling for the team and the alumni. The program is on the map and it will be interesting to see what they will continue to do." ********** NCAA Tournament - Quarterfinal Round Northwestern 18, UAlbany 4 UAlbany - Scoring: Jodi Battaglia 2-0, Allie Phelan 1-0, Ariana Parker 1-0; Goalkeeper(s): Brett Yenger (60:00, 5 saves, 18 GA). Northwestern -- Scoring: Shannon Smith 5-1, Erin Fitzgerald 3-1, Kelly Rich 3-0, Jessica Russo 2-0, Kat DeRonda 1-1, Brooke Matthews 1-0, Taylor Thornton 1-0, Amanda Macaluso 1-0, Christy Turner 1-0; Goalkeeper(s): Brianna LoManto (50:46, 2 saves, 4 GA), Darby St. Clair-Barrie (9:14, 0 saves, 0 GA).
Paw Prints: Northwestern has won 71 of their last 72 games on home turf ... the Wildcats have captured seven consecutive American Lacrosse Conference tournament championships ... Northwestern is No. 2 in both polls and is the highest-ranked opponent that UAlbany has played in its Division I history ... UAlbany is the third America East Conference team to reach the NCAA quarterfinals ... Maryland, North Carolina and Duke advanced earlier in the day to the national semifinals ... the NCAA championship will be held at Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium on May 27-29.