Going to an NCAA women's lacrosse final four never loses its luster, even for Northwestern.
Erin Fitzgerald scored four goals and the defending national champion Wildcats rebounded from a slow start to defeat Duke 12-7 on Saturday night to advance to the national semifinals for the eighth straight season.
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Second-seeded Northwestern (19-2) pulled away in the second half -- outscoring the Blue Devils 6-3 -- and will face No. 3 Maryland on Friday in Stony Brook, N.Y.
"Obviously we're very excited to have the opportunity to make a trip to the Final Four," said Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, whose coaching record in NCAA tournament play improved 30-2 to tie the record for wins in women's lacrosse. "It never gets old. It's a very special thing.
"And I think tonight was a great game. Duke battled hard to the end."
Northwestern's Shannon Smith scored three times, giving her 252 career goals to set a team record for Northwestern, which has won six of the last seven NCAA titles, missing only in 2010.
"It's a huge honor to do it," Smith said, "but I wouldn't have any of those goals if it wasn't for my teammates.
"Right now, I'm just really excited to head back to Long Island for a final four."
Smith leads the Wildcats with 64 goals this season and Fitzgerald is second with 53. The one-two punch came through again against Duke.
"When it comes to these types of game, it's important that your top scorers produce," Amonte Hiller said. "But it's important that your players that are almost role players and have less goals come up big."
Northwestern got that, too, as Amanda Macaluso, Taylor Thornton, Alyssa Leonard, Lacey Vigmostad and Garbiella Flibotte also connected.
Taylor Trimble and Maddy Morrissey both scored twice for Duke (12-7), which also got goals from Makenzie Hommel, Amanda Jones and Kerrin Mauer.
"We're pretty young and even to be one of the last eight standing, I was really proud of our team," Duke coach Kerstin Kimel said "I thought we had a hell of an effort tonight.
"We did a lot of good things. We had a lot of good opportunities. Unfortunately, we didn't finish off some of those."
The Blue Devils led 2-0 5:45 in and 4-2 midway through the first half before Northwestern went on a 5-0 run capped by Smith's record-setting 251st goal 7:04 into the second half.
The Wildcats might have found themselves in a bigger hole early if goalkeeper Brianne LoManto hadn't made several key point-blank stops. She finished with eight for the game.
"I think Brianne had a couple of huge saves tonight," Kimel said "She ended up with eight and we only scored seven goals, so it was a huge difference maker.
"I think some of our kids had great looks, and she just read them real well."
Duke's Mollie Mackler blocked five shots.