Penn Beats Maryland, 9-7, For Final Four Berth

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PHILADELPHIA – Stories just don’t come any better than this.

Penn kept its dream season alive Saturday, advancing the final four with a 9-7 comeback victory over Maryland in the NCAA women’s lacrosse quarterfinals at Franklin Field.

The Quakers (16-1) will get a rematch with top-seeded Northwestern, a 14-9 winner over Syracuse, in the first semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday. The Wildcats handed Penn its only loss of the season, a 13-4 setback in Evanston back on March 9. The championship is being held at Franklin Field, a predetermined site.

Third-seeded Virginia will match up with second-seeded Duke in the other semifinal.

Sophomore Becca Edwards keyed Penn’s comeback, scoring both the go-ahead and gamewinning goals in the second half, while the Penn defense held high-powered Maryland (16-4) to just seven goals and 21 shots.

“It’s just so exciting,” said Head Coach Karin Brower. “It’s been a goal of ours all year to be here in the final four.”

Brower had watched her team fall into an early 4-0 deficit at the Terps flashed their quick scoring touch. After a timeout, the Quakers responded with three goals from Allison Ambrozy, Rachel Manson and Melissa Lehman to shift the momentum.

Penn ultimately outscored Maryland 9-4 after the Terps’ opening run.

The Quakers opened the second half on a tear, scoring five unanswered starting with Ambrozy’s second at 24:11. Chrissy Muller tied the game at five, then Edwards scored the go-ahead goal with 18:19 to play off a tight angle shot.

“I hadn’t been shooting well, but I knew I had to focus,” Edwards said. “I came around the crease, knew I had my defender beat and it just went in.”

Lehman made it 7-5 three minutes later before Edwards buried the eventual gamewinner with 14:17 left.

Lauren Cohen cut it back to an 8-6 lead, but Ali DeLuca put the cap on the game with a laser to make it 9-6. Penn held the ball for virtually the balance of the game, except for a late goal by Kelly Kasper.

The very physical game saw 39 fouls and nine yellow cards, including six for Maryland. The Terps got three in succession late in the game, and finished playing three players down.

Sarah Waxman played a solid game, saving seven for Penn, while her counterpart, Allie Buote, made 10 saves including several spectacular point-blank stops in the first half.

The Quakers’ defense turned in one of its best statistical performances of the season, with Sarah Eastburn causing three turnovers and two ground balls and Hilary Renna scooping three GB’s and causing a pair of turnovers.

For Penn, which has now won 13 in a row, the goal of playing for a national championship at home has been a long time coming.

“We knew we wanted to be here at Franklin Field for the final four,” Muller said. “Here we are.”

Game Notes – Penn will play in the first NCAA final four of any sport for the university since both field hockey and men’s lacrosse made itin 1988. Ironically,Penn was also the host of the field hockey championships that year... Penn has never reached the final four, but did make the final four of the AIAW tournament twice, in 1980 and 1982 ... Penn is the first team to play in the final four at home since Princeton in 2004. The Tigers lost to Virginia, 10-4, in the national final ... The last time a women's lacrosseteam won a national title in its home stadium was 1995, when Maryland beat Princeton 13-5 ... Edwards took 11 shots, including three pipes and two that missed the crossbar by inches ... Penn held Maryland, which was averaging 14.25 goals per game, to its second-lowest total of the season.