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Penn Earns Shot at Title in Women's Lacrosse

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Courtesy of Penn Athletic Communications

TOWSON, Md.--The Penn women's lacrosse team battled back from a a three-goal deficit in the second half to claim a thrilling 9-8 overtime victory against Duke in the NCAA semifinal on Friday night at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, Md. Senior Rachel Manson capped the come-from-behind victory with the game-winning goal with 42 seconds remaining in the second overtime period. The goal came off Giulia Giordano's free position opportunity and her quick pass to Manson wide open in front of the goal.

"I am really proud of the girls after being down 7-4 and staying composed," said Head Coach Karin Brower. "We were struggling coming up with the draw but made a couple changes and got the ball so we were able to run our offense and have those opportunities [to score]. I'm really proud of our defense, they did an excellent job."

Manson's two goals were bookends for the game as she scored exactly one minute into the game, and with 42 seconds to go in the overtime period. However, after Manson's tally, Duke's Carolyn Davis scored the first of her five goals. Sarah Bullard scored just less than a minute later to take the lead. It took Penn nearly 50 minutes to regain the lead.

Duke controlled the ball for a good portion of the first half and held a 4-3 lead at the break. Melissa Lehman scored with 12 minutes to go in the half to close that period's scoring. Duke had the last shot of the half, but Sarah Waxman made a big save to keep it close going into the break.

Waxman was impressive with seven saves and four of the Blue Devils' goals coming on difficult free-position shots. Possibly her biggest save of the day came with 24 seconds left in the first overtime. Lindsay Gilbride, who had scored two other goals in the game including the one to send the game to overtime, fired a great shot on goal but Waxman made an even greater stop.

In the second, Penn struggled to win the draws or gain possession. Duke coolly held the ball while Davis almost single-handedly built the Blue Devils' lead to 7-4.

Though freshman Giulia Giordano had scored early in the period to tie the score at four-all, it was with 15:08 to play that the tides started to turn for Penn. Junior Kaitlyn Lombardo fired from the right side to break an 11-minute scoring drought. She agonizingly hit the crossbar at 13:43, but though the goal would have been nice, it was clear that Penn was back in the game.

Melissa Lehman scored twice and Ali DeLuca had a tally in a four-goal run in 10 minutes to reclaim the lead with 5:40 to play.

Senior Allison Ambrozy won four of her seven draw controls in that final 15 minutes and gave the Quakers the possessions they had been looking for earlier. She also came out of a scrum after Manson's overtime goal to help the Red and Blue hold onto the ball and run down the clock.

Making victory ever sweeter, Brower earned her 100th career win as a head coach. Standing between her and win No. 101 and a national championship is top-seeded Northwestern. The Wildcats defeated Syracuse 16-8 after an evenly played first half.

The Quakers are the only team to have defeated Northwestern this season, and in the 36 games prior to their 2008 meeting. However, it was NU that halted Penn in the 2007 NCAA semifinal game.

Game time is set for 7 p.m. at Towson's Johnny Unitas Stadium. Tickets are still available.

NOTE: NCAA rules dictate that should a tie remain at the end of regulation, two three-minute periods (changing sides at the end of the first) of stop-clock will be played. The team which leads at the end of six minutes wins the game. If the teams are still tied after six minutes, the game moves to three-minute sudden-victory periods where the first team to score wins.

- A.S.