Penn Reaches Championship Game With Manson OT Goal
Quaker goalie Sarah Waxman delivered 7 saves during Penn's 9-8 OT win over the Duke Blue Devils in the semifinal round of the 2008 NCAA Women's Lacrosse Tournament played at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towon MD on May 23, 2008. Christopher Blunck/DC Sports Box
TOWSON, Md. -- A 3 goal Duke advantage evaporated away in the closing 18 minutes as Penn went on a 4 goal rally to force overtime, ultimately winning it with a quick pass by Giulia Giordano on a free position shot to Rachel Manson, who found the back of the net with 42 seconds remaining in the second overtime period.
"It was pretty sweet," remarked Manson.  "I definitely blacked out on that goal.  I don’t remember how I scored it.  It’s just really exciting to go to a national championship."

With their win over the unseeded Blue Devils, the Penn Quakers have made it to a place no other Penn team has gone, and where all collegiate teams strive to go: the prestigious NCAA championship game with an opportunity to win a national title.  Their battle against the Northwestern Wildcats is wrought with challenges, and Northwestern has proven itself in post-season play over the past 3 seasons.  The Wildcats are 16-1 in NCAA tournament play since Kelly Hiller took over, and have won all but 1 of their last 42 games played.  Interestingly enough, the sole loss for the Wildcats was at the hands of the Penn Quakers.

Penn took an early 1-0 lead in the first minute of play, but Duke responded with a pair of goals by Carolyn Davis and Sarah Bullard to take a 2-1 advantage.  Penn knotted the game a minute thereafter, making it 2-2.  The scoring flurry subsided while both teams settled into a strong defensive posture.  Duke's attackers were selective in their shots but managed to scrape together 10 attempts in the opening 30 minutes.

Heading into halftime Duke held a 4-3 advantage and nearly opened it up to 5-3 with a close shot by Duke.  Sarah Waxman made an incredible save to keep it a 1 goal game.

After halftime Penn tied the game with a shot by Giulia Giordana.  For the next 8 minutes it was all Carolyn Davis' game.  The junior attacker fired off 3 shots and converted on all of them.  She went unassisted on her first and third goal, and her second goal came off a penalty that gave her a free position shot.  With the biggest lead of the night (7-4) the Blue Devils appeared primed to take the game and advance to the championship round.  The Penn crowd was silenced in response to the 3 unanswered goals, and head coach Karin Brower took a timeout to regroup.

An invigorated Quaker team returned to the field after the timeout and demonstrated their strength as the #2 team in the country.  Penn whipped off 3 quick goals in the following 4 minutes to knot the game at 7 a piece.  When the second goal was recorded there was a feeling in the air that momentum had shifted away from the Blue Devils and now favored the Quakers.  When Ali DeLuca tied it at 7-7 the Penn faithful rose to their feet in celebration. 

6 minutes later when Melissa Lehman finished the 4 goal streak and Penn took an 8-7 lead with 5:40 remaining the game looked to be in hand.  Anchored by Waxman, who was called upon to make 7 saves, and propelled by the attackers, who took 12 shots in the second half, the Quakers clicked as a team.  However, Duke hung on and with 1 minute remaining in overtime the Blue Devils were offered a free position shot.  Lindsay Gilbride took it and tied the game.  There was little Waxman could do to block the shot.

Waxman came up big for the Quakers in the first period of overtime.  With 24 seconds remaining Lindsay Gilbridge fired a close in shot against Waxman.  Waxman came up with the leaning save to keep the game tied at 8 a piece.

A free position shot with 42 seconds remaining in the second period offered the game winner to the Quakers.  Giulia Giordano earned it and rather than shooting she flicked a quick pass to Rachel Manson, who was open in the crease.  Manson snagged the pass, turned, shot, and scored, giving Penn a 9-8 advantage.

The two teams battled for the following possession, and Penn ultimately walked away with the ball after burning some time off the clock.  As the final seconds ticked off the clock the Quakers bench emptied as the players celebrated their school's first trip to an NCAA Championship game.

Penn and Northwestern will play for the 2008 Women's Lacrosse Championship on Sunday, May 25 at 7pm at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson MD.