Northwestern Off to Big Ten Tournament Championship Game

Northwestern Athletics laceosse

The Wildcats stymied the Nittany Lions’ offense all night long

EVANSTON, Ill. — Northwestern put on a defensive clinic to hold No. 2-seed Penn State to a season-low six goals and advance to the 2016 Big Ten Women’s Lacrosse Tournament championship game, 9-6. 

The third-seeded Wildcats (10-8) will take on No. 1-seed and the nation’s top-ranked team in Maryland (18-0) at Lanny and Sharon Martin Stadium Sunday at noon. The game will be live on the Big Ten Network. 

The Wildcats stymied the Nittany Lions’ offense all night long thanks in large part to the return of sophomore Ally Mueller to the the starting lineup. Mueller, who suffered a lower-body injury in the fall and had yet to appear in a game this season prior to Thursday’s quarterfinal game against Michigan, was inserted into the starting lineup and tasked with face guarding Steph Lazo. 

Lazo entered the game with 27 goals and 30 assists on the season, but was held to just one shot – which came on a free-position late in the game – and one assist. 

When the Nittany Lions did have a look at the cage, freshman goalkeeper Mallory Weisse did everything she could to build a brick wall around the crease. The freshman keeper made 10 saves, including the stop on Lazo’s free-position attempt that came on a 7-on-5 opportunity for the Nittany Lions after a pair of yellow cards were assessed to the ‘Cats. 

The ‘Cats were able to kill off both penalties without giving up a goal following the stop by Weisse and senior Kaleigh Craig sealed the game with her third goal with 2:38 left. 

Freshman defender Claire Quinn also put together her best performance of the season, finishing with season bests of three caused turnovers and three ground balls. Senior Lauren Murray also had a team-high three caused turnovers as the Wildcats finished the evening with 15 total. 

Chicago’s Big Ten Team jumped out to an early 3-0 lead behind back-to-back goals from junior Danita Stroup and a tally by senior captain Nancy Dunbar just over 10 minutes into the game. Junior Christina Esposito assisted on both of Stroup’s goals, while sophomore Selena Lasota extended her games with an assist streak to six on Dunbar’s tally. 

After Katie O’Donnell got the Lions on the board at the 19:37 mark of the first half, Craig quickly responded with her first goal of the game just over a minute later and the ‘Cats held PSU without another goal for a stretch of 13 minutes. Madison Cyr scored her first and only goal of the game for Penn State with 6:21 to go in the first half to cut the ‘Cats’ lead to two, 4-2, but Lasota quickly thwarted any chance of a momentum swing. 

The sophomore won the ensuing draw control and like she has often done as of late, sprinted up the field and took on three defenders to score a goal in just 10 seconds to push the lead back to three, 5-2. 

Freshman Leighton Yenor opened the scoring in the second half on a great feed from sophomore Shelby Fredericks and then returned the favor eight minutes later by feeding Fredericks for a goal to push the lead to four, 7-3. Yenor had two points in the game with the goal and assist and has now scored in five straight and had at least two points in five straight as well. 

Craig made it an 8-3 game with her second goal of the game with 17:50 to go, but Penn State made one last push to turn the game.

Back-to-back Alexis Phillips and Jenna Mosketi cut the lead to three, 8-5, but Weisse made her huge save on the free-position attempt with 5:45 to play to essentially seal the game for the ‘Cats. 

Sophomore Lindsay Darrell matched Murray and Quinn with a team-high three ground balls and chipped in with two caused turnovers in the victory, while senior captain Spring Sanders also had a pair of caused turnovers. Fredericks led the way with five draw controls.

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