Northwestern Claims Fourth NCAA Championship With 10-6 Win Over Penn
The Northwestern Wildcats clinched their 4th consecutive NCAA Championship trophy with a 10-6 win over the Pennsylvania Quakers at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson MD on May 25, 2008. Christopher Blunck/DC Sports Box
TOWSON, Md. -- The Wildcats of Northwestern applied overwhelming offensive pressure in the second half to claim the 2008 NCAA Women's Lacross title in front of a record crowd of 6,125 fans at the Johnny Unitas Stadium on the campus of Towson University in Maryland. Their win tonight over the #2 ranked Pennsylvania Quakers avenges their sole loss of the season, which came at the hand of the Quakers back on April 27th.
"This is an incredible feeling winning a fourth-straight championship," remarked Northwestern Head Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. "Four in a row? Wow. It really feels great. I'm at a loss for words. It makes me so proud to be part of Northwestern University."
Five special seniors were honored after this evening's game, having played on all four NCAA Championship teams while at Northwestern. Christy Finch, Hilary Alley, Fallon McGraw, Quinn Cammarota, and Lindsay North wrapped up their tell-tale careers at Northwestern with 4 championship trophys and an 83-3 overall record.
"It just feels great to be able to go out on top," remarked Christy Finch after the game. "I think this one was my favorite one. I just love this team and how we played together all year."
Hilary Bowen made her second mark in history as a two-time NCAA Championship MVP player. The Junior attacker notched 3 goals and 1 assist this evening, capping an amazing 17 goal postseason run where her opponents struggled to contain her. Hanna Nielsen, a junior from Adelaide Australia, also made tournament history with 3 goals and 3 assists tonight. She landed herself in second place on the all-time list for Northwestern scoring leaders with 114 points this season.
Penn's loss tonight snaps a 15 game winning streak for the Quakers and draws their championship aspirations to a close. Despite their loss the Quakers can walk away from the 2008 season having accomplished a feat no other Pennsylvania sport or team has achieved: competing on the national championship stage. Their runup to the 2008 tournament, and their appearance in the 2007 tournament, shows the significant growth that has occurred on the team in the past 2 years. With a 33-4 record, post-season play in the biggest lacrosse competition in the country, and several juniors returning to play next year as seniors the Penn lacrosse program has much to look forward to.
"We are just really happy that we had a fabulous season," remarked Penn Head Coach Karin Brower. "I have a great group of young girls that worked really hard all year to get us to this point. They fought the entire game and worked their hearts out. I give a lot of credit to Northwestern. Winning four national championships is incredible."
Penn struck first within the first minute of play on a breakaway unassisted goal by Ali DeLuca. Northwestern responded with four goals of their own by Hanna Nielsen, Meghan Plunkett, Hilary Bowen, and Katrina Dowd. With a 4-1 lead it looked as though the Wildcats might pull away but Kaitlyn Lombardo had other plans. She earned a free position shot and made it count at 7:26 remaining in the first half to cut into the Northwestern lead. Penn had several additional possessions in the closing 7 minutes but failed to convert on all of them. Northwestern's Meredith Frank took the ball all the way up the field in the closing 15 seconds and struck with her shot to make it a 5-2 lead going into halftime.
The Quakers took the first goal of the second half on a free position shot by Emma Spiro, but Hilary Bowen, tournament MVP, countered 32 seconds later with an unassisted goal of her own. Hanna Nielsen found Bowen 1 minute later for a shot and the junior from Rochester NY iced her third goal of the night. Christy Finch then went unassisted to give the Quakers a 8-3 lead heading into the closing 20 minutes.
Penn battled back to within 2 on three goals by Chelsea Kocis, Ali DeLuca, and Rachel Manson, but there was little the Quakers could do to stop the Northwestern momentum in the second half. Hannah Nielsen put the game out of reach for the Wildcats with 2 goals in the closing 12 minutes.
Northwestern outshot Penn 13-7 in the first half, but the Quakers reversed the trend in the second half by outshooting the Wildcats 13-6. Northwestern's goalkeeper, Morgan Lathrop came up big for the Wildcats. She got low to make 11 saves this evening.
With Northwestern women's lacrosse alums cheering them on from the stands at Unitas stadium the Wildcats celebrated their victory in NCAA traditional fashion: by cutting down the net in a post-game frenzy with the championship trophy lifted high above their shoulders. Those in attendance raised their hands with 4 fingers extended to honor the accomplishments of the team, and talk around the stadium turned towards the Northwestern women's lacrosse "dynasty." Head Coach Hiller summed it up by saying, "I'm not going to stay it, but if you want to say it, I'm okay with that."