Congratulate The Champs!
PHILADELPHIA -- A dynasty has officially arrived in Evanston.
For the third year in a row, Northwestern (21-1) captured the ultimate prize in women's lacrosse after defeating No. 2 Virginia 15-13 in one of the most exciting NCAA lacrosse championship games ever.
Hilary Bowen was named MVP of the championship after scoring five goals and helping the Wildcats become only the second team in NCAA history to win three consecutive Division I women's lacrosse national championships.
The Wildcats, perfect since a 9-8 loss in double-overtime in the season opener at North Carolina, joined Maryland as the only schools to win at least three-straight titles. Maryland won seven championships in a row from 1995-2001.
"We are just so excited," said Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, the all-time winningest coach (.928) in NCAA Tournament history. "This is something that we've wanted all year long. This senior class has wanted it more than ever."
Katrina Dowd scored three goals, and Meredith Frank and Aly Josephs added two goals each for Northwestern, which improved to 62-2 over the last three seasons.
"We have developed something special here at Northwestern," Amonte Hiller added. "We have developed our own little niche in the Chicago area. Ours is different (than Maryland's run of championships), but we are just excited about what we have established at Northwestern so far."
Kristen Kjellman finished with one goal and one assist, giving her 250 goals and 99 assists to cap off an illustrious four-year career.
Dowd, a freshman, put the dagger into the Cavaliers late in the game. Leading by one 14-13 and with Virginia rallying, the freshman from Yorktown Heights, N.Y., passed left to Hannah Nielsen along the left side, and with her defender focused on Nielsen, Dowd cut right to the goal and Nielsen hit her in stride as she put the Wildcats up two with 2:29 left.
"The upperclassmen gave me the confidence to do it," said Dowd, a freshman who had scored just 14 goals all season. "They said, 'Don't be scared. Don't be shy.' I just shot the ball at the goal and put it away."
Dowd's game-clincher was made possible by a game-saving save by NU keeper Morgan Lathrop (seven saves) with 3:29 left as NU led by just a point at that time.
Northwestern built an 11-5 lead in the first half and saw it dwindle from there. Virginia got within 14-13 with 10:21 remaining on Megan O'Malley's third goal of the game. Dowd responded more than 8 minutes later to put the game away for the Wildcats, who won their 12th consecutive NCAA tournament game.
Bowen had five goals and was named the MVP of the Championship.
"I kind of had a feeling today was going to be hard-fought," Amonte Hiller said. "When you've been here before, people are gunning (for you)."
Virginia struck first 41 seconds into the game, marking just the third time all season the Wildcats have trailed. They then upped its lead to 2-0 50 seconds later.
But no faster than it took media members to figure out the two-goal deficit was NU's largest of the season, Northwestern turned that deficit into a five-goal lead, scoring seven-straight over a 9:39 span.
The two teams traded the next six goals as Northwestern led 10-5 with 6:07 left on Bowen's fourth goal of the game. NU then made it 11-5 when Nielsen found Dowd for her second goal, giving Nielsen 66 assists on the year and setting a NCAA single-season record in the process.
Nielsen finished the game with four assists, giving her 69 for the season.
With NU up 12-7, the Cavaliers made a run, scoring the next four goals in just over a 3-minute span to make it 12-11.
After a media timeout, NU halted the Cavaliers rally as Nielsen found Frank for her second strike with 20:45 remaining.
Ashley McCulloch, Kaitlin Duff and Megan Havrilla had two goals apiece for the Cavaliers, who lost to Northwestern, 13-10, in the 2005 title game.
"It's been a great experience," Havrilla said.
Virginia overcame a nine-goal deficit in its 14-13 semifinal win over Duke, the largest comeback in the NCAA championship history. The Cavaliers' 19 victories tied a school record, originally set in 2004 when they won the national championship.
"For this year's team, I cannot be more proud," Virginia coach Julie Myers said. "The character on this team is amazing."