May 30, 2010

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Maryland Rally Ends One Dynasty, Restores Another

by Nelson Coffin | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

NCAA DIVISION I CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: MARYLAND 13, NORTHWESTERN 11

* Terps End One Dynasty, Restore Another
* Defense, Draws Help Terps Declaw 'Cats
*
NCAA Championship Blog

The first rule of Project Mayhem: don't ask questions.

* MD1 Tournament Central
* WD1 Tournament Central


Maryland midfielder and tournament MVP Caitlyn McFadden makes a move on the cage Sunday during the Terps' 13-11 victory over Northwestern in the NCAA Division I championship game. McFadden scored two goals and helped hold Northwestern star and fellow Tewaaraton finalist Katrina Dowd to just one assist.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

TOWSON, Md. -- By the time Sarah Mollison's goal was disallowed -- for scoring on an indirect free position without passing the ball first -- with about 22 minutes remaining in the first half in the NCAA Division I women's lacrosse championship game between five-time defending champion Northwestern and Maryland, the air was already leaking from the suddenly rattled Terrapins' balloon.

They trailed, 4-0, then 6-0 and eventually fell behind, 8-3 with 15:12 remaining in the first half, even losing a goal on an inadvertent whistle.

After that, though, it was all Terps, a determined bunch who refused to be deflated in front of a record 9,782 fans at Johnny Unitas Stadium on Sunday evening.

Top-seeded Maryland somehow pulled it together, using an efficient offense and lock-down defense to emerge with a 13-11 triumph of the second-seeded Wildcats and its first title since finishing the 2001 season with a seventh consecutive crown. It was also the an NCAA-best 10th championship for the Terps, in what is believed to be the biggest comeback in championship round history.

"We came in well prepared," said tournament Most Outstanding Player and Maryland senior midfielder Caitlyn McFadden, a local product who graduated from nearby Notre Dame Prep. "After their 6-0 run, we just kept playing with confidence and heart."

At one point, Maryland's defense held the vaunted Northwestern attack scoreless for 27:33, a feat few could have imagined against offensive standouts Katrina Dowd, Danielle Spencer, Shannon Smith, Erin Fitzgerald, Amanda Macaluso and Brooke Matthews.

In fact, Dowd, the most prolific goal scorer in NCAA tournament history, was held to just one assist in the contest.

"We weren't afraid to play her," said Maryland junior defender Brittany Poist, who combined with McFadden to snap Dowd's 38-game goal-scoring streak. "We respect her as a player, but we weren't afraid."

In the first 10 minutes, it seemed as if Northwestern could do no wrong.

Smith, Spencer, Fitzgerald and Matthews combined on the 6-0 opening salvo — on just eight shots against sophomore goalie Brittany Dipper (seven saves) — that had the Terps reeling.

"Maryland really fought back," Northwestern coach and Maryland alum Kelly Amonte Hiller said. "We knew they weren't going to roll over and die."

Yet there was no pivotal moment that turned the tide for the Terps, other than inserting freshman defender Iliana Sanza into the mix in an attempt to slow down the Wildcat express. Dipper also settled down in the cage.

"We started to get a little casual," said Spencer, who lost the battle of draw controls to Maryland's Karri Ellen Johnson, 14-12. "And they made us pay."

The Terps finally got on the board when another rookie, Katie Schwartzmann, stuck in a rebound off Mollison's shot. When Mollison and Johnson also solved sophomore goalie Brianne LoManto, Maryland at least had some momentum.

It was short-lived, however, after Macaluso and freshman Taylor Thornton responded for Northwestern.

That's when Schwartzmann started Maryland's 7-0 run to grab a 10-8 lead with 19:57 left in the final period. Mollison, Johnson, McFadden aand Brandi Johnson scored during the rally.

The Wildcats tied it on goals by Alexandra Frank and Smith with 12:03 left before Jones scored on a great look from McFadden, who also rippled the net four minutes later, to put the Terps on top for good.

"What an amazing night for the Terps," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. "I think they showed such great composure and such great poise and just played a great game to fight back from that."


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