After trailing No. 7 Duke by five goals in the first half, No. 2 Northwestern came from behind to defeat the Blue Devils 22-10 Saturday to secure its second straight appearance in the Final Four.
In front of a stoked crowd at Martin Stadium, the Wildcats utilized seven different scorers to lead the nation’s second best scoring offense to victory. Senior attacker Lauren Gilbert led the team with 6 goals, while junior attacker Izzy Scane — a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award — scored five.
“It’s awesome,” Scane said after Saturday’s win. “We’re super excited. It’s where we were expecting to be this year just because of how hard our team was working.”
At the beginning of the contest, NU struggled to create offensive opportunities and gave up the first goal of the game to Duke. The team committed 15 turnovers in the game and lost seven draw controls to Blue Devils junior attacker Maddie Jenner. These factors contributed to the Cats falling behind 6-1, 19 minutes into the game.
However, NU soon countered Duke’s momentum. Senior defender Jill Girardi took the draw with Gilbert and graduate student attacker Lindsey McKone on the circle, leading them to win 14 draw controls combined.
Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller was proud of Girardi and the rest of the girls on the circle and emphasized the importance of the draw to their offense. Amonte Hiller added that the squad practiced draw taking in preparation for the game because Jenner — whom Amonte Hiller coaches of the U-19 United States National Team — is known as a strong draw specialist.
“We have a great game on the draw and we feel teams will have to worry about us,” Amonte Hiller said. “Every team we’re going to play against has great draw people so we’re going to have to bring it.”
Gilbert echoed this sentiment, saying winning the draw was a crucial factor in the squad’s comeback late in the first half. With 6 goals in the game, Gilbert was a force on the field and gave Duke defenders a challenge across all 60 minutes. She said NU’s 25-13 loss to Maryland in the 2019 Final Four fueled the team to work even harder to make it back to the Final Four.
The Cats ended the first half with an exact score lead and did not slow down in the final 30 minutes. Outshooting the Blue Devils 44-26, Gilbert and Scane scored six and five goals, respectively, to book the team’s trip back to Baltimore.
“We have such a deadly attack so it makes it really hard for other teams to stop (us),” Gilbert said. “I was able to create lanes for myself and goal, but it’s a tribute to how deadly everyone is on attack.”
Despite exiting the game early after receiving her second yellow card in the 46th minute, Scane was able to find her way to the net, including two goals off of fast break turnovers.
Scane said the team’s timeout early in the first half motivated their second half offensive explosion.
“(Amonte Hiller) kind of talked to us and basically said ‘nothing’s just gonna come — you’re gonna have to bust your butts and work for every little play,’” Scane said.
As the Cats made history in front of a stadium filled to 50 percent capacity, NU will now travel east to Maryland and face No. 3 Syracuse, who it defeated in the 2018 Elite Eight.
Players said they were excited about fans having the chance to attend the game, and Amonte Hiller said the home field advantage has been “phenomenal.”
But, NU’s work is far from done, she added.
“Syracuse has been amazing all season and the (Atlantic Coast Conference) has been very strong,” Amonte Hiller said. “The Big Ten just didn’t have the chance to prove ourselves this year and now we do.”
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— Rapid Recap: No. 2 Northwestern 22, No. 7 Duke 10