Terps take title before record crowd

Updated: May 30, 2010, 11:16 PM ET
Associated Press

TOWSON, Md. -- Their eyes were red, and it took every bit of effort for the Northwestern players to keep the tears from flowing down their flushed cheeks.

None of them had ever experienced losing the NCAA women's lacrosse national championship game, and the way it happened made it far more difficult to swallow.

Northwestern's dynasty ended Sunday with a 13-11 loss to Maryland, which rallied from a six-goal deficit to dethrone the five-time defending champions.

The Wildcats (20-2) scored the game's first six goals and led 8-3 before being held scoreless for 27½ minutes while the top-seeded Terrapins (22-1) took control.

"They're a great defense. All the credit goes to them," Northwestern senior Katrina Dowd said, her top lip quivering as she spoke. "They did what they had to do to win."

It was the 10th NCAA women's title for Maryland, the first since 2001, and it preserved their record of seven straight titles, set from 1995-2001.

Terps coach Cathy Reese was a player and an assistant coach at Maryland during that seven-year run.

"As I was fortunate to be a part of those seven national championships ... this is special for me just to bring this championship back to Maryland," she said.

Maryland also ended Northwestern's run of 23 consecutive tournament wins, although it sure didn't seem as if it would turn out that way after the first 15 minutes.

"It felt like every shot they were taking was going in, and every one we took wasn't, and actually that's exactly what happened," Reese said.

But it didn't stay that way for long.

"Maryland is a tremendous team. They're not going to let down," Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. "We knew they weren't going to roll over and die."

The Terrapins were able to come back because they tightened up their defense in front of the goal to prevent Northwestern's repeated rushes to the net. Maryland also started winning more draws, and goaltender Brittany Dipper began to assert herself in the net.

Dipper, who didn't stop a shot until the Wildcats scored their eighth goal, finished with seven saves.

While Maryland clearly picked up its game, Northwestern seemed to relax after taking such a commanding lead.

"We started to stand around a little bit on offense and not do what got us to that point, and they were able to inch back into it," Amonte Hiller said.

Northwestern senior Danielle Spencer, whose eyes were puffy and red, added, "We started to get a little casual when we were up 6-0 and they made us pay. When we shot it into the goalie's stick or have a turnover, they would go down and score."

Maryland used a five-goal run to pull even at halftime, and the Terrapins took their first lead when Caitlyn McFadden scored from the free position early in the second half to make it 9-8.

Northwestern finally ended its scoring drought with 17:39 left, then got another to pull into at tie at 10 with 12:03 remaining.

Brandi Jones put the Terrapins back in front with 9:51 left, scoring in front off a fine pass from McFadden.

Shortly after Spencer had the potential tying goal wiped out because of a crease violation, McFadden made it 12-10. Spencer scored with 2:57 left, but Karri Ellen Johnson clinched it for the Terps with 2:03 to go.

"What an amazing night for the Terps," Reese said. "I am so proud of this team. The heart and fight they displayed were outstanding. They showed outstanding composure and poise."

And now, for the first time in six years, the Wildcats end the season looking up at another team.

"It's tough to stay at the top," Amonte Hiller said. "We'll definitely go back to the drawing board and be ready. I know that doesn't help out our seniors, but they had a tremendous career."

The game was played before 9,782 fans, the largest crowd to watch a women's lacrosse event in United States history. The previous record was 8,762, for the semifinal round Friday night.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press