Northwestern Edges Upset-Minded Penn

Northwestern's Kaleigh Craig carries the ball against North Carolina. Craig scored the game winner for NU Sunday in overtime against Penn. Photo credit: Jeffrey A. Camarati

Northwestern’s Kaleigh Craig carries the ball against North Carolina. Craig scored the game winner for NU Sunday in overtime against Penn. Photo credit: Jeffrey A. Camarati

It took overtime, but sixth-ranked Northwestern won its third straight game Sunday afternoon at Lakeside Field, taking down Penn 9-8 after Kaleigh Craig scored with 13 seconds left in the extra session.

Craig went between the legs of Quaker keeper Lucy Ferguson for the game-winner, her second goal of the day and 18th of the season. Sheila Nesselbush added three goals and Selena Lastoa tallied a pair for Northwestern, who improved to 8-3 on the season with the victory.

Craig’s first goal came midway through the first half when it looked as if the Wildcats would cruise to victory against #11 Penn. Craig fought off a double team to extend Northwestern’s lead to 4-0, but the Quakers hung tough and the Wildcats never led by more than four goals.

The ‘Cats and Quakers traded goals and NU led 6-2 before Penn’s leading scorer Tory Bensen found the back of the net eight seconds before halftime, cutting the Wildcat lead to three and giving momentum to the visitors.

Penn started fast after halftime, using a 3-1 run at the start of the second stanza to cut the Wildcat lead to one. With just over 13 minutes to pay, Sheila Nesselbush stepped up and nailed a free-position shot for her third goal of the game, quashing the Quaker rally and extending the NU lead to 8-6.

However, Penn wouldn’t go away. Bensen brought the Quakers back within one with just under ten minutes remaining, taking a pass from Nina Corcoran and rifling it past Bridget Bianco for her second goal of the game. Northwestern appeared to be in the clear after the Quakers missed a free-position shot with about six minutes to play, but a Wildcat turnover gave Penn one last opportunity to force overtime.

Bensen took advantage, completing her hat trick and the Quaker comeback with 1:36 left on the clock, tying the score at eight and sending the ‘Cats to overtime for the second time this season.

In the first of two three-minute overtime periods, Penn had the better of play but hit the post on their only shot attempt. In the second overtime period, the Quakers again held the ball until senior Mikaela Bozza forced a turnover. which led to Craig’s winning goal.

Northwestern struggled in the draw circle in the second half and overtime, which gave Penn extra posessions and scoring opportunities. The Quakers outdrew the Wildcats 9-2 after halftime and 13-8 in the game.

Bridget Bianco played well in goal for Northwestern, stopping nine of the 17 shots sent her way, including multiple free-position opportunities.

Lasota opened the scoring with a ridiculous behind-the-back goal, giving the ‘Cats the early 1-0 lead with her 41st goal of the season. The freshman extended NU’s lead to 5-1 on a bounce shot midway through the first half. Lasota now has 42 goals in 11 games this season after Alyssa Leonard led the Wildcats in scoring a year ago with 41 goals.

Kara Mupo and Christina Esposito also scored first-half goals for the Wildcats, while Iris Williamson scored twice for the Quakers.

Northwestern heads northeast to Piscataway to continue Big Ten play Friday against Rutgers.

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