Humphrey, Epke Rise to Challenge, Take Down Defending National Champs
Chloe Humphrey had five goals, and Madison Epke delivered the game-winning assist.
SPARKS, Md. — ACC coaches watching Saturday afternoon’s contest between Northwestern and the U.S. U20 Women’s National Training Team at the USA Lacrosse Fall Classic were reminded of the next great offensive threat joining the college ranks this spring.
Chloe Humphrey, less than two months into her college experience at North Carolina, sliced and diced through the Northwestern defense to the tune of five goals and one assist, leading the U.S. to a comeback 13-12 win in the driving rain.
She scored four of her tallies in the second half, and the U.S. so desperately needed someone to step up offensively. They trailed 8-5 at the break after holding a 5-1 first-quarter lead, so Humphrey took it upon herself to make plays.
Her assist also came in the second half, a feed to Madison Epke near goal-line extended that the James Madison product finished past Molly Laliberty. Humphrey couldn’t help but be proud of her performance against the defending NCAA Division I champions.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting that, that’s for sure,” Humphrey said as she took a break from signing autographs for young fans at USA Lacrosse headquarters. “A lot of us are in high school or our first years in college, so I think we kind of had to have the realization that we can do this. And after the first few minutes of play, we were up to their speed.”
Humphrey and Epke were the catalysts, with Epke having a hand in both the game-tying and game-winning goals inside the final three minutes. Her score with 2:51 remaining tied it at 12, then her well-timed feed from behind the cage to a jumping Shea Baker crashing through the middle gave the U.S. the lead with 1:19 left.
Epke, who starred Friday night against Canada with 10 draw controls, then beat Northwestern draw ace Sam Smith on the final draw of the contest, allowing the U.S. to burn the final 75 seconds.
“She is amazing at the draw,” said Epke, who is one of the more experienced players on the U.S. roster as a sophomore in college. “It was so cool to draw against her. I've watched her. I was trying to study her film last night. … I knew that last one was going to be really important. I just wiped the rain off my stick and put my all into it.”
Izzy Scane (four goals), Dylan Amonte (three goals), Smith (three goals) and Erin Coykendall (three assists) had plenty of opportunities to produce, and they were largely successful, but the U.S. defense was up to the task.
Lydia Colasante, Kaitlyn Davies and Eliza Osburn were pesky and didn’t budge when staring down Scane, coming off a 99-goal season and a Tewaaraton Award. They hardly blinked when Coykendall was throwing head and stick fakes and trying to create space. And they didn’t back down when the Northwestern offense was humming in the second quarter.
The team’s younger players had to lean on the unspoken leadership of players like Epke, Madison Taylor (three goals), Baker (two goals) and Emma LoPinto, who have significant college experience.
“I think actually just playing with them has taught me so much about myself and how the U.S. should be playing,” Humphrey said.
It was a contest of mirroring styles, leaving the team best able to execute as the winner. Helmed by Northwestern head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, the U.S. team played to a similar script — pressure defense, freelance offense and endless transition chances.
That made it even more impressive that the U.S. finished Saturday’s game with the edge in shots (29-26) and ground balls (15-12). Northwestern also turned the ball over seven times in the second half, a testament to the pressure exhibited by the U.S.
Humphrey enjoyed playing Amonte Hiller’s style.
“It really is fun,” she said. “It's a lot of freelance. Do whatever you want, figure it out, and if you mess up, keep going. Don’t dread any of your mistakes. I think her offense worked against her defense.”
NORTHWESTERN TOPPLES CANADA
Northwestern will walk away from Saturday with a 1-1 record after beating Canada 16-7 in the day’s first game. A 6-6 game at halftime, Northwestern unlocked its offense in the third quarter when Scane (two goals) and Coykendall (two goals, one assist) made their first appearances of the Fall Classic.
That tie quickly turned into a 12-7 Northwestern lead, and Noel Cumberland punctuated a 4-0 fourth-quarter run with two goals of her own.
Hannah Johnson, who missed the entire 2023 season, made up for lost time with four goals on six shots with one assist.