SYRACUSE – The NCAA couldn’t have drawn up a better game than the one the University of Pennsylvania and the University at Albany put together to open the 2015 NCAA Championship, and in the end it was the Quakers who were one goal better in an 11-10 win in overtime.
Lely DeSimone scored the game-winner on a free position with 3:27 to play in overtime, capping a four-goal day for the junior. Her goal stood up because Lucy Ferguson stood out in the final seconds, denying a Sarah Martin shot with just seconds left in overtime.
The final moments were frantic, Penn needing every ounce of its patented defense to halt the Great Danes. First, it appeared that Taylor Foussadier would ice the game with a caused turnover off an errant Albany pass with 1:25 to go, but the Quakers would give the ball back with under a minute to play. The Red and Blue did a solid job denying Albany a chance to find an open player, but Martin broke free with under 10 seconds to play and she got a good shot off which Ferguson was able to get her pocket to.
Ferguson only made three saves in the game, her fewest stops in a game this season, but was there when it counted.
Penn's win is its third in overtime in NCAA Championship history, making the Quakers 3-2 in national tournament games which require extra time. Penn had lost its last two NCAA games which requored overtime, the last coming in 2012 to Loyola.
So was DeSimone, scoring a season-high four goals – a number which ties her career best. She had two goals in the first half, scoring twice in a row to tie the game at 4-4. She was also almost the hero in regulation as Penn drew up its last play for her. She took the ball with under five seconds to go, and got a good shot off – an offering saved by Courtney Henderson to force overtime.
The affair was tight throughout, no team leading by more than two goals throughout the entire game. Tory Bensen scored three goals for the Quakers in the game, her final one giving Penn a 10-9 lead with 9:31 to play. Katherine Sweeney countered for the Great Danes with 4:20 to play, but Penn won the ensuing draw and had the DeSimone chance to end things in regulation. The Quakers had a man-advantage in the final three minutes after an Albany yellow card, but elected to hold for the final shot.
Penn benefitted greatly from the edge in draw controls, winning 17 to just eight for Albany. Freshman Alex Condon was remarkable in her first NCAA Tournament game, winning six draws. Brooke Kiley was also a factor with four, while Lindsey Smith and Meg Markham each had two. The 17 draw controls for the Quakers tied the most in a game this season.
In a game that featured five ties and six lead changes, the Quakers needed to answer in the first half, while it was the Great Danes who had to rally in the second.
Penn found itself trailing, 4-2, just before the midway point of the first half, but Nina Corcoran found DeSimone driving just 25 seconds later to cut the deficit to one. Just under four minutes later, DeSimone scored again to knot the game at 4-4. It was less than a minute later that Catherine Dickinson scored an unassisted goal to give the Quakers a 5-4 lead.
The Great Danes netted the next two goals, retaking the lead at 6-5 with 6:19 to play in the opening period. It was Bensen, though, that sent the game to halftime tied, 6-6, with her first of the game with 2:04 to play.
The Quakers scored the first two goals of the second half, Lindsey Smith and DeSimone finding the back of the net to give Penn an 8-6 lead. Albany would score three of the next four goals, however, sending the game to the final 10 minutes all square at 9-9 and setting the stage for an exciting finish.
Nina Corcoran made history for Penn in the win, as her assist on Lindsey Smith’s goal with 28:20 to play in the second half was her 34th assist of the season – a new Penn single-season record. She finished the game with three assists, giving her 35. Her 65 career assists are fifth-most by a Quaker in a career.
Tory Bensen’s three goals give her 54 this season and 137 for her career – both ranking second all-time by a Quaker. She also now has 159 career points, fifth most by a Penn player.
Up next for Penn is No. 4 Syracuse on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. The Quakers and Orange have never met in NCAA Championship play, but Penn is 2-0 all-time against the Orange with wins in 2006 and 2007.
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