Notre Dame keyed in on Northwestern's Shannon Smith -- limiting the Wildcats' lacrosse star to only one goal and one assist -- but the Fighting Irish didn't have enough firepower to take down the defending NCAA champions, and NU won its opening round NCAA tournament game 12-7 Saturday at Lakeside Field.
The No. 2-seeded Wildcats (18-2) advance to the quarterfinals next weekend, where they will play either Duke or Virginia at Lakeside Field. Duke and Virginia play Sunday.
Smith now needs only one goal to tie the school's all-time career scoring record of 250 goals.
But because Notre Dame (13-5) nearly shut out Smith, Erin Fitzgerald was able to record a hat trick, and Lacey Vigmostad notched two goals in about a minute late in the second half.
"Shannon was getting a lot of pressure and had her head up a lot," Fitzgerald said. "I happened to be the open girl."
The Wildcats led only 5-3 at halftime before exploding for seven second-half goals. Notre Dame got as close as 10-7 with 5:18 to play on Betsy Mastropieri's goal, which quieted the 600 fans who braved the drizzle and wind.
But then Vigmostad scored two unassisted goals, one at the 3:41 mark and another at 2:18 to put the game away.
"You're going to have to wear people down," NU coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said of the postseason.