Blogs and Commentary

May 24, 2009

Live Blog: NCAA Division I Women's Championship

LMO's Clare Lochary blogs live from Towson, Md., where four-time defending champion Northwestern and upset-minded North Carolina square off for the 2009 NCAA Division I women's lacrosse championship.

Northwestern 21, North Carolina 7

* HilBo, Nielsen Cement Legacies in 'Cats Lore
* NCAA Records Fall in Wildcats' Title Romp
Northwestern Blows Out UNC for Title No. 5

Postgame Notes and Quotes

You can check out Jeff Siedel's story (linked above) about all the records broken in the title game -- it's a pretty ridiculous amount. Here's the All-Tournament team, announced at the conclusion of the game:

Laura Zimmerman (UNC)
Jenn Russell (UNC)
Amber Falcone (UNC)
Hannah Nielsen (Northwestern)
Hilary Bowen (Northwestern)
Danielle Spencer (Northwestern)
Meredith Frank (Northwestern)
Ali DeLuca (Penn)
Katie Mazer (Penn)
Karri Ellen Johnson (Maryland)
Brittany Poist (Maryland)

Most Outstanding Player: Katrina Dowd (Northwestern)

A few quotes from the postgame press conferences:

UNC head coach Jenny Levy: "Congratulations to Northwestern on a perfect season. They had the target on their backs all season and played up to their potential against a really though schedule...they played an outstanding game today. Unfortunately, it wasn't our best game of the year...bu tI'm proud of my team, and I'm proud to get to this game...They're still in the process of making history. They just won their fifth straight. With five in a row, they certainly can be called a dynasty and it's not a unique sport in the Midwest."

[Note: Levy said she didn't pull Ripley because their backup is a walk-on freshman. Plus, with all the media time outs, she felt like they were getting enough face-to-face time to coach her as best as they could.]

UNC defender Amber Falcone: "Our defense didn't play as well as we liked...Northwestern fed the ball a lot more (than Maryland) and we weren't picking them up."

Northwestern midfielder Hilary Bowen: "It was really hard when I went down, just thinking that it could be season ending. And if I just didn't have my teammates and my coaches and my family pushing me to get back out there and give it a go, I never would have had this opportunity and I'm just so thankful that I did."

Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller: "I just can't put into words how proud I am of this team and these seniors. It was a great display... We had to overcome a lot of adversity. We have a great group of seniors. These guys are amazing, and also it's been a tough year, but a good one."

Northwestern midfielder Danielle Spencer: "I want to say, and I think my whole team can say this: I would like to dedicate this win and this championship undefeated season to Kelly's dad, Lewis Amonte. [Amonte died on February 17.] She didn't say it but none of this would have been possible without the inspiration that he gave her, and I know it's hard for her to talk about, but he inspired her and in turn that inspired all of us. He was incredible and none of the hard work we put in this season would have been possible without his influence."

Final: Northwestern 21 North Carolina 7

With a record-setting offensive performance, the Wildcats have claimed their fifth consecutive NCAA championship. HilBo led the way with five goals and one functioning ACL. Spencer (4g, 1a) and Dowd (4g, 2a) were next in line. Nielsen had no goals but six assists in her final collegiate performance.

Carolina will go home to Chapel Hill with bumps, bruises and broken hearts. Logan Ripley did make one save, at 8:20 on Casey Donohoe's shot. Overall, the 'Cats scored 21 goals on 17 shots. They did stall a bit after Nielsen got a yellow card for that dangerous shot on Parks, but for the most part, the Wildcats roared mightily, proving that they are once again the undisputed champions.

The Northwestern alums are wearing purple-trimmed sombreros to celebrate the "Cinco in Mayo." Felicitaciones a los Gatos montés Noroestes!

 14:56 Northwestern 19 Carolina 4

Meredith Frank and Kristen Taylor just had a head-to-head collision right in front of the Carolina bench while scrapping for a loose ball. Frank walked away from it looking OK, but Taylor is still down. Foul on Frank.

Logan Ripley is STILL IN. At 27:43, Danielle Spencer scored unassisted and made it 17-3. That's a record for goals scored in a NCAA championship, breaking Maryland's 16 goals in the 1999 final. Carolina's just letting them walk in for the most part, but this is starting to look like a blood bath.

With 17 minutes left and a 19-3 lead, Spencer, Bowen, and Dowd are all still in, and Spencer just took a penalty shot that went wide. We're approaching the philosophical realm of coaching, when you have to decide when a blowout becomes unsportsmanlike, and whether it's more insulting to keep shooting or to run a stall.

Nielsen just assisted HilBo, making it 20-4 at the 13:12 mark. North Carolina has never allowed an opponent to reach 20 goals in program history. Their worst offensive outing was a 19-17 loss to Maryland in the 1999 ACC tournament.

Oh, Nielsen took a shot and it hit Carolina's Chelsea Parks at full speed. We have another injury time out.

Official attendance for today's game is 6515, a record for the NCAA championship final. 14,064 fans attended the entire weekend.

Halftime: Northwestern 15 North Carolina 3

Have you ever read the original Brothers' Grimm version of Cinderella? Like most non-Disneyfied fairy tales, it's really dark and violent and messed-up. The wicked stepsisters hack off their heels and toes to try to make the glass slipper fit, and Cinderella weeps over her dead mother so much that a hazel tree grows on the grave.

That's sort of how things are going for this year's Cinderella team. Carolina is getting beat down by Northwestern. Our halftime score is 15-3. We've had a running clock since Brooke Matthews' (3g) free position at 3:25. That was the scoringest half in NCAA history (formerly the record was 12). Northwestern has more goals than Carolina has had possessions (13). Shots favor Northwestern - they have 15 to Carolina's five. That's a .866% team shooting percentage. With the rest of the stats, Northwestern leads but it's not totally out of whack. On ground balls, Northwestern leads, 7-5, and on draw controls they lead 10-8.

Jenn Russell got UNC's third goal of the day with 33.5 seconds remaining in the half on yet another free position. Nielsen and Meredith Frank followed it up with seven seconds left in the half with a give-and-go from behind the cage that was so gorgeous they jumped for joy when it went in. (Ripley still has no saves.) A lot of people give Northwestern flack for arrogance, but it's sort of nice to see players take so much joy in playing together and playing well, and enjoying the 15th goal as much as the first. The ‘Cats are doing all this with their bread-and-butter stuff - feeds from behind the cage to cutters. They're just better athletes. I've been ragging on Ripley, but really her defense is not giving her a lot of help. It's like watching the Harlem Globetrotters out here.

14:53 Northwestern 5 North Carolina 2

Dowd got her first strike of the day, coming from around back and taking a feed from Spencer and sneaking it in next to the pipe, catching Ripley totally out of position. Now it's 5-2 Northwestern, and at 14:53 the 'Cats are on pace for a 20-point game. Ripley has a big goose egg for saves in the first half. Nielsen and the rest of the attack is riding hard on clears, too. I wonder if head coach Jenny Levy will pull her, maybe even for just a minute or two. (Hey, it darn near worked for Georgetown in the 2001 championship. The Hoyas were down 8-1 against mighty Maryland and head coach Ricky Fried [Correction: Kim Simons was Georgetown's head coach in 2001.] pulled Bowen Holden for a few minutes to calm her down, briefly throwing back-up goalie Chandler Vicchio to the wolves. GU came back and took it to overtime and almost toppled the Maryland dynasty. That game is known as the Greatest Game Ever Played among many lacrosse fans, and it's one of the best athletic events I've ever seen, men, women, lacrosse, basketball, football, whatever. The Heels are going to need something like that here.)

Carolina's points both came on free positions, so the Heels need to figure out a way to penetrate the ‘Cats defense, too.

Let's Get This Started: North(western) versus North (Carolina)

posted Sunday at 6:05 p.m. by Clare Lochary

Greetings from Johnny U Stadium at Towson University, and the 2009 NCAA Women's Lacrosse Division I Championship between the Northwestern Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels! It's 81 degrees out, muggy and overcast here, which is great for starting goalies Morgan Lathrop and Logan Ripley. The goal on the east end of the field faces into the setting sun, so cloud cover will give them better visibility.

Here are your starting line-ups. Nothing too surprising. UNC's Laura Zimmerman, the hat trick hero of their semifinal win over Maryland, does not start for the Tar Heels and still doesn't today.

North Carolina

D Meredith Newton

D Amber Falcone

D Taylor Chumney

M Kristen Carr

M Jenn Russell

M Katy Fitzgerald

A/M Megan Bosica

M Mia Hurrin

A Kristen Taylor

A Corey Donohoe

A Chelsea Parks

G Logan Ripley


D Lacey Vigmostad

D Maggie Bremer

D Sarah Harrington

M Hilary Bowen

M Mary Kate Casey

M Brooke Matthews

M Danielle Spencer

M Alexandra Frank

A/M Shannon Smith

A Katrina Dowd

A Hannah Nielsen

G Morgan Lathrop

Donohoe got the biggest cheer from the crowd; I suspect some of them came from Northwestern fans since Corey is the younger sister of ‘Cats attacker Casey Donohoe. Very classy.

Opening draw is Kristen Carr versus Danielle Spencer. Spencer drew to self and settled the offense. After ambling around the cage a bit, Bowen made an inside move and Newton stumbled a bit inside the arc, and HilBo put it high nonstick side and got a goal  29:12, and then Mary Cate Case stuck a penalty shot to make it 2-0 at 27:08. This is exactly what Carolina didn't want to happen. It's so dangerous to let the ‘Cats get out to an early lead, and now they are 2 for 2 on shooting. Yikes.

Lathrop just got her first save of the day on a Bosica free position. She did a great job of baiting the shooter, crouching low and giving what looked like a huge space between her legs. From my seat in the press box, I have the same angle on the cage as Bosica had at the hash, and it was the shot I would have taken. But Lathrop read Bosica (and Lochary) just right and dropped low for a spot-on save.

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