Northwestern outlasted North Carolina with a coolly efficient attack Friday night, 15-10, to avenge its only loss of 2010 and join Maryland in Sunday's NCAA Division I lacrosse championship.
The largest crowd ever to watch a women's college lacrosse game in the U.S. — announced at 8,762 at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium — saw the five-time defending champions pummel North Carolina for 10 second-half goals.
Player of the Year finalist Katrina Dowd and teammates Danielle Spencer and Erin Fitzgerald each scored three goals for the Wildcats (20-1), who broke a 4-4 halftime tie with two quick goals in the second half and never trailed.
Deep into the second half, the Wildcats were easily beating Carolina defenders to the net for goals against goalkeeper Logan Ripley.
Laura Zimmerman scored three goals for the Tar Heels, who got within 10-9 on back-to-back goals by Corey Donohoe of North Harford, the second on a free-position chance.
A defensive first half ended with three goals in the last 27 seconds, including a spectacular behind-the-back goal by Dowd that gave Northwestern a brief 4-3 lead.
Dowd's score came 10 seconds after Megan Bosica (Mount Hebron) had given North Carolina a 3-3 tie by hitting the far side of the net unassisted.
Undeterred by Dowd's bravado, the Tar Heels got a 4-4 tie when Laura Zimmerman scored her second goal with no time on the clock.
It was a tense — and sometimes sloppy — first half. Northwestern had scored 37 goals in its last two meetings with North Carolina but was held in check much of the first half Friday.
Carolina midfielder Jenn Russell was constantly in Dowd's face in the first half, and Dowd could barely get off a shot. When she forced the issue with less than 10 minutes left and charged the cage, Dowd drew a foul.
Zimmerman scored the first and last goal of the half, giving Carolina its only lead two minutes in.
Baltimore native Brooke Matthews (Friends) produced Northwestern's first goal on a runner from the right side. Danielle Spencer (Northwestern) and Becky Lynch (Carolina) traded goals for a 2-2 tie midway through the half.
The first 27:35 of the game produced just four goals. The next 4:04, carrying into the second half, featured six as Northwestern's offense started to click.