"Num-ber Four" meant that the Terps were No. 1.
Maryland won its fourth straight Division I title with an impressive, 11-5 victory over top-ranked Virginia at UMBC Stadium before 3,109, the second-largest crowd to see an NCAA women's lacrosse final.
Cathy Nelson scored four goals and was named the Division I tournament's Most Outstanding Player, but every Maryland player was critical to the victory -- the Terps' fifth national title in seven years and their seventh overall.
"There's no doubt I share this with the rest of the team," said Nelson, a Mount Hebron graduate. "Every single individual has really given what it takes and combined to be a national championship team."
The No. 3 Terps (18-3) silenced the critics who said they were too young and too inexperienced to win another national title, especially after losing their first two games, to Duke and North Carolina.
"This year, we started off kind of slow," said Nelson, "and there was doubt in a lot of people's minds: Do we have what it takes to be a national championship team? We worked hard for three months, concentrating on executing our attack, focusing on playing good pressure defense and working well with each other. Since March 6 [the Duke loss], our team has really come a long way."
Yesterday, the Terps defense, behind exceptional performances from goalie Alex Kahoe, Tonia Porras and Kathleen Lund, passed a huge test early. They allowed the Atlantic Coast Conference champs only one first-half goal, just as they had in the Terps' 11-8 regular-season win.
While the Terps attack struggled through most of the first half, the Cavaliers (17-3) peppered Kahoe with 17 shots in the first 22 minutes. The sophomore made 10 saves during that stretch and finished off a stellar afternoon by stopping 21 of Virginia's 26 shots.
Thanks to Kahoe and company mopping up the defensive end, the game remained scoreless for nearly nine minutes and tied 1-1 for more than 12 minutes.
The low-scoring pace certainly favored Virginia, with Division I's stingiest defense at 5.74 goals per game. But after Kahoe's 10 saves, the Terps attack finally began to roll.
Christie Jenkins nailed a free-position shot, and Sasha Newmarch scored on a great move, rolling around her defender less than a minute later at 4: 48.
The most telling statistic other than Kahoe's save total was Maryland's 37-25 edge in ground balls. One of them -- Lund's grab after Virginia's Lacey Aumiller nailed a shot off the pipe -- set up a transition goal to end the half. Kristin Sommar fed Nelson for a low bullet with 1: 59 to go.
The momentum carried over into the second half, as the Terps opened with two quick goals. Quinn Carney bounced one in, and then fed Nelson for a 6-1 lead.
Maryland won the first six draws of the half and scored five goals in the first 13: 31.
"We were stepping up and pressuring just like we always do," said Virginia midfielder Kara Ariza, "and they were able to see the openings and they executed perfectly."
The Terps allowed just one Virginia goal during that stretch. Mills Hook's free-position score brought the Cavaliers within four momentarily, but Nelson, Meredith Egan and Jen Adams quickly extended the Terps' lead to 9-2.
The Cavaliers rallied with three straight, and Ariza's spinner brought them within 9-5 with nine minutes left. But they could not get closer thanks to another terrific snare by Kahoe, this time on Ariza's high free-position shot with 3: 14 left.
Nelson sealed it with 2: 07 left, taking a perfect pass on the crease from Carney and backhanding it by Virginia keeper Heather Castle (10 saves).
Pub Date: 5/18/98