EWING, N.J. - College of New Jersey senior Dana Latona might have enjoyed winning yesterday's NCAA Division III women's lacrosse national championship more than anyone.
Last season, Latona played with torn anterior cruciate ligaments in both knees and had surgery on both in the same day last June. Before that, she suffered through shoulder surgery, a back injury and another torn ACL.
But Latona not only made it through her senior year, she also set Division III tournament records for most points and most goals while leading the No. 1 Lions to a 14-8 victory over No. 4 Williams in the final on her home turf of Lions Stadium.
The Mount Laurel, N.J., resident scored four of her five goals in an early 6-0 Lions run that all but shut the door on the Ephs' upset chances. Latona finished the game with five goals and two assists. She was named the tournament's most valuable player after compiling 25 goals and 18 assists.
She had no idea that she had set the records, saying that winning was more important."When you find a passion, you have to put everything into it," she said. "I got a couple of hard knocks along the way, but that only makes the good times better."
For the young Lions (17-0), the victory continued an impressive tradition that includes 10 national women's lacrosse championships, including seven in the past 10 years. The Lions were denied the title last year after falling in the semifinals to eventual champ Middlebury.
After Lions teammate Megan McCall scored the first two goals, Latona swerved through traffic to score twice. She added two more goals on free-position shots.
The Lions, who shut out Salisbury State for the first 36:21 of their 19-4 semifinal victory, held the Ephs without a goal for the first 20:56. The Ephs didn't manage a shot for nearly 11 minutes.
By then, the Lions had taken 10 shots and had a 4-0 lead.
Before Cara Shortsleeve scored a free-position goal, her Ephs trailed 6-0. The Ephs pulled within 7-2 on another Shortsleeve free position, but they couldn't cut further into the lead.
The Lions matched each of Williams' next three goals before Emily Fellona, Latona and McCall scored consecutive goals to boost the New Jersey lead to 13-5 with 7:23 left.