Northwestern and Penn faced off at Lakeside Field on Sunday afternoon in a matchup of two great business schools women's lacrosse teams. The sixth-ranked 'Cats (8-3, 1-1 B1G) won 9-8 on a go-ahead goal by junior midfielder Kaleigh Craig with 13 seconds remaining in the first overtime period, surviving a thriller against the eleventh ranked Quakers (9-2, 3-0 Ivy League).
Craig's shot ripped through Penn goalie Lucy Ferguson's legs, and extended NU's winning streak to three games. They handed Penn its first loss since March 18, which came against top-ranked Maryland.
"I saw that there wasn't much time on the clock, and there was an opening, so I took it," Craig said. "I was just aiming for net, so [through Ferguson's legs] was a good spot I guess."
Although Craig felt they didn't perform their best, the 'Cats still found a way to win.
"[Headed into overtime], we just thought, 'we can't lose this,' it would've been rough," Craig said. "Penn was a great team but we've played tougher teams. We honestly had an off day, so we needed to pull that one out."
It was not the prettiest of games. The teams combined for 38 fouls and 28 turnovers, many of which were unforced. Northwestern also blew a 6-2 first half lead and allowed Penn to outscore them 6-2 over the remainder of regulation. Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said she was disappointed about the way many things went, but was relieved that her team overcame its mistakes.
"The wheels completely fell off the bus," Hiller said. "We did not play well for a long stretch in the middle of the game. We were able to pull it out, which I think is a good sign, but we can't play like that. Hopefully this tight overtime game was a lesson."
The 'Cats jumped out to a 4-0 lead midway through the first half, but the Quakers fought back, getting on the board with 12:52 left and adding two more just before intermission to make the score 6-3 at the half.
Penn rode that late first half momentum to cut NU's lead to 7-6 midway through the second half. Despite sophomore midfielder Sheila Nesselbush finishing off a hat trick with 13:16 remaining, the Quakers refused to go away. They punched right back with a goal from senior attacker Tory Bensen to make it a one score game, 8-7, with 9:43 left.
After a big defensive stand, it appeared Northwestern would be able to ice the game. But freshman midfielder Shelby Fredericks turned it over with 2:40 remaining and Penn capitalized, with Bensen scoring the 8-8 equalizer with 1:36 left. Both defenses held their ground in the last minute of regulation to send the game to overtime.
In the first three-minute half of the six-minute overtime period, both teams came up empty. It appeared to be much of the same in the second half of overtime #1, but Craig's clutch goal in the final seconds sent 682 mostly purple-clad fans home happy.
The Wildcats will be back at it on Friday night, when they take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in New Jersey.