May 16, 2009

Edwards Goal Lifts Penn over Duke in OT

by Justin Feil | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Penn's Becca Edwards scored with five seconds remaining in overtime to lift the Quakers to a 10-9 win over Duke in an NCAA quarterfinal Saturday. Penn advances to meet four-time defending Division I champion Northwestern in the final four.

PHILADELPHIA -- Ali DeLuca found Becca Edwards with five seconds left in the second overtime as the Penn women's lacrosse team ended Duke's year in overtime for the second straight season.

The fourth-seeded Quakers (15-2) scored the final three goals of the game, including the only one in overtime, to overtake the Blue Devils, 10-9, Saturday in the NCAA quarterfinals at Drexel University's Vidas Field. The Blue Devils (15-6) staged a monumental comeback of their own in the second half after Penn held a 7-2 halftime lead.

"It really helps us get a little fire back to know that we can score when we need to score and do what needs to be done on offense," said Edwards, whose fourth goal for the game-winner was also her 100th career point. "We're pretty excited to keep going and play in the final four."

DeLuca added three goals and a key caused turnover as Penn advanced to its third straight final four to take on top-seeded Northwestern, a 15-9 winner over Princeton, on Friday in Towson, Md. The Wildcats defeated Penn in the national title game last year.

The Quakers will go into the rematch with the Wildcats with some of their swagger back. Penn finished the regular season with their first consecutive losses since 2006, to Northwestern and Stanford, then followed up with a tighter-than-expected 10-8 win over Fairfield in the NCAA first round.

"We didn't play too well in the last two games," said Penn head coach Karin Brower. "They knew that everything was on the line and how exciting it was to play Duke, and to beat a team like this to get the final four means so much."

Penn came inches away from being eliminated when Caroline Cryer's shot with two seconds left in regulation bounced high off the crossbar.

"I'll replay that one for a while," said Cryer, who had a goal and four assists. "I just was trying to get the ball towards the goal. I didn't know how much time there would be. Unfortunately it was just inches.

"We put ourselves in position to have a chance at the end of the game. They didn't fall. I'm proud of our team for battling back. I think that says a lot about us."

The Blue Devils, playing their first full game without Tewaaraton Trophy finalist Carolyn Davis, scored seven unanswered goals in the first 21 minutes of the second half. Duke took its first lead of the game, 8-7, with 12:31 left when Lindsay Gilbride fed Cryer. The combination in reverse worked over and over for the Blue Devils, who built their advantage to 9-7 when Cryer found Gilbride for her fourth goal of the game with 9:11 left.

"We've been down, but not down by that much," said Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel. "The fortitude and the character that our kids showed in the second half battling back was great."

Penn showed resolve, too, in coming back after Duke took all the momentum. After a Penn timeout, DeLuca took a handoff from Erin Brennan, spun and fired in her third goal with 7:51 left. Forty-eight seconds later Penn's Emma Spiro tied it, 9-9, off another feed from Brennan, the Ivy League Freshman of the Year.

Brennan's go-ahead goal with 4:12 left was waved off by an illegal stick, and Penn never got another shot in regulation.

In the first overtime, Penn won the draw, but DeLuca slipped while making a move and Duke picked up the ground ball with one minute left. The Blue Devils' Gilbride got off a shot from 10 feet that was stopped by Emily Szelest with eight seconds left. Szelest finished with nine saves.

Penn won the opening draw of the second overtime, but Duke's Kim Imbesi saved Spiro's shot with less than two minutes left, one of her nine saves. DeLuca gave the Quakers the ball back when she caused a turnover with 50 seconds remaining. After settling the offense, she found Edwards on the left side of the goal for the game-winner, Edwards' second overtime goal this season.

"It's not often you get to score an overtime game-winner," Edwards said. "This one takes you to the final four. This one is bigger."

Edwards, who suffered a season-ending knee injury early last year, scored twice and assisted on Brennan's first goal of the game as Penn built a 4-0 lead in the first 14 minutes. The Blue Devils got on the board when Emma Hamm found Danielle Kachulis with 15:36 left. Gilbride and Cryer connected 1:23 later, but Duke wouldn't score again until the second half.

Edwards and Brennan scored on solo efforts and DeLuca scored on a free position with 2:19 left as Penn built its 7-2 halftime edge. Duke erupted in the second half, only to again see the Quakers end its season in overtime.

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