Northwestern brought home its sixth NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Championship in the last seven years Sunday with a gut-wrenching 8-7 victory over top-seeded Maryland, and did so with its most complete team effort of the 2011 season.
NU shut down the nation’s fourth-leading offense, keeping Maryland to two second-half goals, while also coming back from an early 4-1 deficit thanks to four goals by tournament MVP Shannon Smith.
In a back-and-forth first half, Maryland scored four goals in a span of 1:34 but was held in check to the tune of only one goal in the remaining 28:26 of the first 30 minutes as the game went to halftime tied at five. But unlike the 2010 title game matchup between these teams, NU overwhelmingly controlled the pace of the game in the second half, taking the lead for good at the 15:23 mark and controlling possession for the final quarter of the game.
“This was a culmination of a lot of hard work, a lot of evaluating of ourselves, from our lowest moment, to our loss to Johns Hopkins and at Florida midseason to just gutting it out and winning games from small amounts all season,” said head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. “It prepared us for this moment and our girls could not have played more focused or more poised.”
Smith took home MVP honors thanks to her 18 goals in four games, second all-time for a single tournament behind only Katrina Dowd’s 22 in 2009. Earning All-Tournament team honors for the Wildcats were Erin Fitzgerald, Taylor Thornton, Colleen Magarity and Brianne LoManto.
Northwestern’s defensive effort was due in part to the play of freshman Kerri Harrington, who made her first career start and was tasked with shutting down Maryland Tewaaraton finalist Sarah Mollison. Harrington hounded the Terp senior all game and caused Mollison to break her streak of 67 consecutive games with a point come to an end.