Northwestern Blanks Mollison, Beats Maryland for NCAA Championship
Northwestern's players pile onto each other, the NCAA championship trophy in their grasp again Sunday after an 8-7 victory over Maryland at Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium.
© John Mecionis
STONY BROOK, N.Y. -- It would have been easy for Brianne LoManto and the Northwestern defense to freak out. They were facing Maryland, the nation's fourth-highest scoring team, and trailed by three goals midway through the first half. And they had a freshman making her first career start marking Sarah Mollison, the second-leading scorer in the country.
But LoManto, the Wildcats goalie, laughed when asked about championship game pressure.
"Freaking out's not really an option," she said.
Northwestern rode a stifling defense and some-well timed scoring to an 8-7 victory over Maryland in the NCAA Division I women's lacrosse championship game Sunday at Stony Brook. It is the Wildcats' sixth NCAA title in seven years and avenged their loss to the Terps in last year's final.
Much of the credit for Northwestern's success went to Kerri Harrington, the freshman tasked with defending Mollison, the Australian speedster who scored four goals in Maryland's semifinal win over Duke. Harrington, a native of Westwood, Mass., had appeared in only eight games this season.
It was more than enough. Harrington face-guarded Mollison for 60 minutes and neutralized her, limiting the senior to two shots on goal.
"The preparation definitely started before Saturday," Harrington said. "It's not easy going up against Shannon Smith every day in practice. I thought if I can handle Shannon, I can handle anyone. [Mollison] was fast, but I was fast too."
Added Amonte Hiller: "We felt like we wanted to take Maryland out of its offense. I think Mollison is so key to their attack. She runs the offense; she's their field general... I think we were able to contain their big guns, which we felt was the key to our defensive success, and part of that success was Kerri Harrington."
As the defense did its part, so too did Smith. The junior and NCAA scoring leader racked up four goals, including the eventual game-winner with 4:36 remaining.
Maryland treated Smith much as Northwestern treated Mollison, sending senior defender Katie Gallagher after her at every touch.
"I really enjoyed playing her," Gallagher said. "It was a challenge. She is tough and she goes hard. She's very strong."
Kara Mupo added two goals for the Wildcats, and Jessica Russo and Erin Firtzgerald scored a goal each. Beth Glaros led Maryland with four goals, Kristy Black had one goal and two assists, Katie Schwarzmann had one goal and one assist and Alex Aust had one goal.
Northwestern neutralized Mollison, but the early game belonged to the Terps. Glaros, a freshman, took full advantage of the extra attention being paid to her high-profile teammate, tallying a career-high four goals, all in the first half. Glaros scored the second of two straight with 22:18 remaining in the first to put Maryland up 4-1 and, after two Northwestern goals, scored again to put Maryland up 5-3 with 14 minutes remaining.
Northwestern 8, Maryland 7
Smith scored three minutes later to bring it back within one. That score held until Jessica Russo tied it at five with five seconds remaining in the first half. Russo's goal was the only score for almost 20 minutes of game time.
Smith gave Northwestern its first lead since 1-0 with an unassisted goal 10 minutes into the second half. After Black tied it off an assist from Schwazmann 30 seconds later, Mupo gave the Wildcats the lead for good, 7-6, with 15:23 remaining. Smith followed with a crucial insurance goal. Schwarzmann scored the last goal of the game, putting Maryland within one with 1:15 remaining.
For native Long Islanders like Smith, Mupo and LoManto, the victory at Stony Brook's was extra sweet. Every one of Northwestern's scorers played high school lacrosse on Long Island.
"I think it just makes it all that much more special for us," Smith said. "Playing in front of your friends and family who don't normally see you. But overall this is a special moment for this whole team. The 29 of us worked extremely hard."
News and Notes
The attendance for Sunday's NCAA title game was 8,011, second-highest in history. Only last year's Maryland-Northwestern final drew more fans (9,782). Attendance for the entire weekend was 15,469... Smith was named MVP of the tournament. Smith, LoManto, Erin Fitzgerald, Taylor Thornton and Colleen Magarity also made the all-tournament team from Northwestern. Mollison, Schwarzmann and Brandi Jones made it for Maryland. North Carolina's Corey Donohoe and Laura Zimmerman and Duke's Emma Hamm and Mollie Mackler rounded out the team... Northwestern's six titles rank second all-time, trailing only Maryland's 10. Northwestern and Maryland have combined to win the last seven national titles and 15 of the last 20, dating back to 1992... Amonte Hiller is now 28-2 in the NCAAs, the tournament's best-ever winning percentage. Her 28 wins rank her third all-time, behind Cindy Timchal and Chris Sailer, who both have 29 tournament wins.
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