COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Penn's bid for a fourth consecutive appearance at the NCAA Women's Lacrosse Final Four came to an end one stop early as the No. 8 seeded Quakers were knocked out of the 2010 NCAA Tournament by top-seeded Maryland, 15-10.
The Quakers were resilient throughout the game, answering almost every Maryland challenge until a three-goal run for the Terps over a span of 1:58 in the final 10 minutes put the game out of reach.
The Quakers got on the board first just 1:42 into the game on an Emma Spiro goal. In what would become a theme for both sides throughout the game, Spiro snuck out from behind the cage, converting an Erin Brennan pass as quickly as the ball hit her pocket for the opening strike.
The Terps came back with four in a row to take a 4-1 lead. Sarah Mollison had two of the goals, a good head start on her five goals for the game. Mollison had two very different goals while helping Maryland to the lead, one on a low bouncing shot five-hole while coming out from behind the cage and another on a 1v1 play streaking past a defender.
The Red and Blue bounced back to climb within one on a pair of goals from Giulia Giordano and Ali DeLuca at the midpoint of the first half. Giordano became the second Penn player to benefit from a nice Brennan pass with 16:20 remaining before DeLuca struck 1:06 later. The Tewaaraton finalist led her defender from toward the middle of the fan before cutting back quickly. The sudden move resulted in the defender falling to the ground and DeLuca launching a shot past goalkeeper Brittany Dipper.
The Terps retook a three-goal lead thanks to a pair of goals setup by Caitlyn McFadden. She found Karri Ellen Johnson and Mollison to give Maryland a 6-3 lead.
With 3:04 to play, Spiro struck again. This time, she was on the receiving end of a Giordano pass as Spiro went alone to goal as Giordano drew the defense away from the crease. The Quakers had a chance to again climb within one late, holding for a possible final shot. However, the Terps defense closed ranks and caused a turnover, denying the Quakers a chance to head into halftime down by one.
Penn made up for that miscue early in the second half as Brennan scored just 49 seconds into the half on an assist from DeLuca. Like many of the goals in the game, it was a quick-strike attack as DeLuca found the open Brennan who one-timed the ball home.
After that, the Terps slowly built the lead up by trading two goals for every one scored by Penn. Each time, it was McFadden first and then Mollison as the duo each worked towards finishing with five goals in the game.
Megan Smith answered with 22:27 to play for Penn, redirecting a DeLuca pass to cut the Maryland lead to 8-6. Then, it was DeLuca's turn to weave her way through traffic to catch a Brennan pass with 15:14 to play, in the process cutting the lead to 10-7.
The goal was DeLuca's 73rd point of the season, breaking the Penn single-season record which had stood since Sherry Marcantonio scored 72 in 1981. Her 213 career points rank second all-time by a Quaker.
After Laura Merrifield gave Maryland an 11-7 lead with 12:34 to play, Penn fans probably started remembering the national semifinal game from 2009 against Northwestern where the Quakers came back from a late 11-7 deficit to force overtime. A goal from Spiro 1:01 later gave the faithful followers of the Red and Blue something to believe in.
However, the comeback could never get started fully as Johnson answered for Maryland.
With 9:06 remaining, just 29 seconds after Johnson scored for Maryland, DeLuca scored her final goal as a Quaker - and it was perhaps her finest of the program-best 148 she scored.
After Penn won the draw control, Maddie Poplawski found DeLuca as she approached the restraining line. DeLuca, motoring up like only she can, ran straight at her defender. At full speed, DeLuca pulled off a 360-degree spin move, whipping a shot at Dipper as she completed the cycle. The rocket went top corner, a fitting cap to DeLuca's scoring spree over the past four seasons.
Maryland scored three goals shortly thereafter to ice the game, sending the Terps to their 18th Final Four - and second in a row.
For the Quakers, the loss ends the 2010 season with a 15-4 record. Along the way, the Red and Blue picked up a fourth Ivy League championship in a row and crowned themselves champions of the inaugural Ivy League Tournament.