TOWSON, Md.Penn’s run into uncharted territory came to a halt at the hands of the Northwestern Wildcats on Sunday night in the NCAA Championship game as the Cats scored a 10-6 win over the Quakers for their fourth-straight NCAA Championship.
“We are just really happy that we had a fabulous season," said Head Coach Karin Brower."I have a great group of young girls that worked really hard all year to get us to this point and I am just really proud of them. They fought the entire game and worked their hearts out. I have to give a lot of credit to Northwestern."
Even though the Red and Blue opened the scoring with an Ali DeLuca unassisted goal just over a minute into the game, the Wildcats showed the poise of a team that had been on this stage before as they rattled off four-straight goals to take a 4-1 lead that they never relinquished.
After entering the halftime break with a 5-2 lead, the Cats extended their lead to 8-3 with 22 minutes to play in the game. An Emma Spiro goal off a free position opportunity almost four and a half minutes into the second half cut the lead to 5-3, but three consecutive Wildcat goals opened things up once again.
Facing their largest deficit of the season, the Quakers refused to back down, ripping off three goals in over seven minutes to creep back into the game. Chelsea Kocis came out from behind the net unopposed to scoop a shot into the Northwestern net for an unassisted goal 39:39 into the game for her 11th goal of the season.
Ali DeLuca scored her second goal of the game and 26th of the season two minutes later when she took a pass 25 yards from goal and ran straight at the net before firing a shot into the cage behind Northwestern goalie Morgan Lathrop.
Rachel Manson scored what proved to be the last goal for the Red and Blue with 13:57 to go in the game as she stripped Lathrop of the ball out of the crease and was able to shoot into the open net to close the gap to 8-6.
Penn had a chance to get another goal back after winning the ensuing draw, but Katrina Dowd intercepted a pass which set up the Wildcats’ ninth goal of the game at the 48:25 mark when Hannah Nielson scored her second goal of the game from right in front of the cage after a double team from the Quaker defense opened up space.
Nielson scored the hat trick with her 51st goal of the season with just over three and a half minutes remaining in the game. A loose ball on the ground eluded two Quakers and found itself in the hands of Northwestern’s leading scorer who deposited it into the open net.
The goal came after Allison Ambrozy hit two posts on two consecutive shots with 8:30 remaining in the game. After that sequence, Northwestern held the ball for the remainder of the game, taking away any chance Penn had for a comeback.
The Quakers opened up the scoring early in the contest with an Ali DeLuca unassisted goal 1:08 into the game. Deluca gained possession of the ball and made her way into the offensive third of the field, weaving to her left and firing the first shot of the game past Wildcat goalkeeper Morgan Lathrop for a 1-0 Quaker lead.
Northwestern had a chance to score the equalizer when Hilary Bowen had a free position opportunity with 3:41 off the clock in the first half, but her shot sailed wide to the right.
The Wildcats did tie the game at 1-1 less than a minute later when Hannah Nielson scored an unassisted goal at the 4:37 mark.
Bowen helped stake the Wildcats to a 3-1 lead when she factored into Northwestern’s next two goals. First, she set up Meghan Plunkett for her third goal of the season 9:52 into the game. Bowen then scored a goal of her own almost four minutes later on a Nielson feed.
At the 18:32 mark, the Wildcats opened up a 4-1 lead on a Katrina Dowd score. Dowd took a pass from Nielson in front of the net and slipped it past Penn goalkeeper Sarah Waxman.
Kaitlyn Lombardo brought the Red and Blue back within two on a free position goal with under seven and a half minutes to play in the half.
The action was fast and furious in the last half minute of the first period with Giulia Giordano having a shot from about eight yards out turned away by Lathrop. The Wildcats turned upfield and Meredith Frank converted for a 5-2 lead that the Cats would take into halftime.
Penn had a chance to get one back right before the break as Alison Ambrozy had a free position attempt with one second left in the half, but Lathrop turned away her shot.
This was only the third time in 19 games that an opponent scored ten goals on the Quakers who entered the game with the nation’s leading defense. With a lineup that boasts five players who each had at least 39 goals, it is not surprising that the Cats were able to find the back of the net ten times.
Penn outshot the Wildcats by one, 20-19. The only clear difference on the stat sheet was in draw controls, where Northwestern outdrew the Quakers, 11-7, the differential of four equaling the difference on the scoreboard after the final horn.
Lathrop had 11 saves in goal for the Cats while Waxman stopped six shots for the Red and Blue.
The Quakers had three women named to the All-Tournament Team at the conclusion of the NCAA Championships. Melissa Lehman, Rachel Manson and Hillary Renna earned spots on the team for their performances throughout the tournament. Northwestern's Hilary Bowen was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2008 NCAA Championships.
The loss in the championship game does not overshadow the accomplishments of the 2008 team. They set a program-record for consecutive wins with 15 a streak that ended in tonight’s game. Penn went 33-4 over the last two seasons with three of the losses coming at the hands of Northwestern. Their record over that span is second only to the Wildcats. When the Quakers earned a spot in the 2008 NCAA field, it was the second time in program history that it qualified for two consecutive NCAA Championships (1983-84 being the other). The matching runs to the Final Four marked the first such event in program history.
After the game, senior Rachel Manson said, "Not only did we make history for our program, we made history for our university, which is really exciting."
It goes without saying that history has been made the last two seasons on the field by the women’s lacrosse program. With half of the starting lineup returning as well as the five key reserves from the run to the championship game not to mention Becca Edwards who is rehabbing from an ACL injury, the future looks as bright as the recent past has been for the Red and Blue.