Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller isn't quite ready to christen her women's lacrosse team a dynasty, but she said it's OK if anyone else wants to.
Last night, the Wildcats extended their string of NCAA championships to four with a 10-6 win over Pennsylvania that avenged their only loss of the season before a title-game record announced crowd of 6,125 at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Only one other team has won more consecutive titles and more national championships overall - Maryland, which won seven between 1995 and 2001 and has 10 total national titles.
Amonte Hiller, who played for the Terrapins the first two years of their streak, said it would be difficult to compare the two.
"I think it's a completely different world in women's lacrosse now," said Amonte Hiller, who built the Wildcats from a club team to a national champion in just four years.
"When I played at Maryland ... we were the top seed and we got a bye into the final four. I think the road was a lot easier back then. There's so many good teams out there now."
Last night, the slow pace of the game was more to the Quakers' liking, but the Wildcats turned it to their advantage by dominating possession and working their set offense to perfection. It didn't hurt that goalie Morgan Lathrop came up with some highlight-reel saves among her season-high 11 for the game, including two in the final 42 seconds of the first half.
Penn (17-2) scored the first goal of the game, but the Wildcats controlled five of the first six draws and at one stretch held possession for more than 10 minutes. They answered that opening goal with four straight.
"I remember very well the last time we played Penn," said the Wildcats' Hilary Bowen, the tournament's most outstanding player for the second straight year. "We were sort of forcing things and we weren't really slowing it down, so we wanted to play a little bit of their game."
Bowen, who tied a 24-year-old record for most goals (17) in the tournament, had three goals and an assist last night while Hannah Nielsen had three of each. In the first half, the duo worked the set offense with precision and set the tone for the Wildcats' attack.
The Quakers, who made the first NCAA title appearance for their school in any sport, struggled against a Northwestern defense that limited them to seven shots in the first half.
"They pressure you out really hard," said Penn coach Karin Brower, "and they look to double you really early. It's just an extreme amount of pressure and ... they definitely create a frenzy on the defense. You really need to be composed with the ball, and at times we were and at times we weren't tonight."
The Quakers cut the deficit to 8-6 on Rachel Manson's goal with 13:42 left. Penn won the next draw, but Katrina Dowd intercepted a pass and Nielsen converted it for a 9-6 lead.