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
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
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.