With the win, Northwestern moved into tonight's 7 o'clock final against Virginia, which put together an incredible rally to take a 14-13 victory over Duke on a goal by Conestoga grad Jess Wasilewski with nine seconds remaining in the game.
The Cavaliers (19-3), who dropped a 19-18 decision in double overtime to visiting Duke during the regular season, scored the last 10 goals of the game.
Officials said it was the biggest comeback in NCAA tournament history. A crowd of 6,428 was on hand to witness the event.
"I expected it to be close," said Duke coach Kerstin Kimel, whose team finished with a 16-4 record. "We all expected it to be a battle. They are a great team, and I thought they showed a ton of fortitude in the second half. They kept pecking away at our lead and forcing us to make mistakes."
The Quakers (16-2) had exceeded all expectations except their own in gaining a spot in the final four in their own backyard a year after going 10-6. Penn used this magical year to make the NCAAs for the first time since 1984 after claiming its first Ivy League title since 1982.
In this game, the Quakers were overwhelmed early and often, and there was little doubt as to the outcome even in the opening moments of the first half.
"I think we came a long way and it was a wonderful year for us," said Penn coach Karin Brower. "We're really proud we made it here today. We should have played a little better. But Northwestern is a great team and they deserved to win today."
The loss was Penn's first at home this season. That was but one reason Penn had high hopes. After all, the Quakers entered yesterday's game 8-0 on campus and with a school-record 13-game winning streak.
It was the second meeting of the year between Penn and Northwestern, which pinned the Quakers with their only regular-season defeat, on March 9 on the Wildcats' home field.
Northwestern, which hasn't gone down since a season-opening loss at North Carolina that wasn't settled until two overtimes had been played, was led yesterday by five goals from Aly Josephs.
Her Wildcats teammate, Kristin Kjellman, scored three times, and three other Northwestern players had at least one goal each.
By the time Penn scored for the first time in the game, it was about 14 minutes into the second half.
"Northwestern started off in a typical lacrosse defense, and we really needed to take advantage of that in the beginning," Brower said. "Our attackers turned the ball over a little bit, and then, when we started going on a run, they put their high-pressure defense on and we just couldn't control the ball."
The pattern was painfully familiar to the Quakers. When Northwestern hosted Penn in what was each side's fourth outing of the season, the Wildcats broke the contest open by scoring seven unanswered goals during the last 30 minutes of a 13-4 victory.
In that game, the Quakers faced an early deficit of 5-1 and trailed 6-3 at intermission.
Last night, Northwestern led 8-0 at halftime as four players scored goals.
At the outset, Penn had trouble penetrating into goal-scoring range against the Northwestern defense. The Quakers were probing and trying different passes to no avail, and more often than not, the Wildcats would gain control of the ball and head off the other way.
Josephs, who scored four goals during the first 30 minutes, put her team up 1-0 with a free-position score 4 minutes, 27 seconds into the match.
After that, Penn's deficit grew quickly.
It was 2-0 after the Wildcats' Meredith Frank came from behind the goal to beat Penn goalie Sarah Waxman at the 17:37 mark, and Josephs came back to bounce the ball in for a 3-0 Northwestern lead with 14:42 remaining in the first half.
Less than two minutes later, Kjellman made it 4-0, and within another couple of minutes, it was 5-0 after Hilary Bowen scored unassisted.
The speedy Kjellman scored what was the most impressive goal of the half when she charged at the Penn defense from about 40 yards away and put the ball in the net from about seven yards.
Josephs gave Northwestern its halftime margin by adding to her goal total with 9:35 remaining in the half, and again at 53 seconds.
The rout was on.
With the score 10-0 and 20:09 to go, Brower made a switch at goalie and inserted Sara Harrington in a nothing-to-lose attempt to stop the onslaught.
NCAA Lacrosse Tomorrow at Franklin Field.
Northwestern (20-1) vs. Virginia (19-3), 7 p.m.Today at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore.
Johns Hopkins (11-4) vs. Delaware (13-5), noon.
Duke (16-2) vs. Cornell (15-0), 2:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN2.Monday at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore.
1 p.m. TV: ESPN
Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum
at 215-854-2583 or email@example.com.