Recap vs. New York Sharks – June 7, 2008

Sharks Bite Divas With Late Rally and Win, 14-8
New York 14, DC 8
By Neal Rozendaal

New York, NY – Just like last season, the D.C. Divas and New York Sharks waged an epic battle in the Big Apple.

Unfortunately for the Divas, this time the result wasn’t as satisfying.

The New York Sharks scored the game-winning touchdown with less than two minutes left on the clock and rallied for a thrilling 14-8 victory. Last season, the Divas handed the Sharks their first home loss in seven years, and on Saturday, they nearly did it again. But New York fought back to snap a two-game losing skid and defeated the Divas for the first time.

The Sharks (5-2) made the first scoring threat of the game, putting together a nice drive down to the Divas’ one-yard line. The Divas defense held firm, however, recovering a New York fumble to temporarily end the threat.

However, the Divas (4-3) soon ran into trouble trying to move the ball out from deep in their own territory. Divas quarterback Allyson Hamlin threw a pass that was intercepted by the Sharks at the Divas’ nine-yard line. On the very next play, New York quarterback Karen Mulligan threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brooke McKinney for a 6-0 lead with 3:41 left in the first quarter.

The Divas’ offense tried to respond as the second quarter began. Trailing by six points, the Divas drove down the field for a first down at the New York 13-yard line. The Divas were unsuccessful on their next three plays, losing 11 yards and bringing up fourth and 21 from the Sharks’ 24-yard line. D.C. chose to go for it, and Hamlin fired a beautiful 20-yard pass down the field. But the receiver was tackled at the four-yard line, less than a yard short of a first down, and the Sharks took over on downs at their own four-yard line.

The Divas’ defense made the key play to put D.C. on top. Defensive back Latisha Perry-Guinn stepped in front of a Mulligan pass and returned the interception 22 yards to the end zone to tie the game. The Divas ran in the two-point conversion and seized an 8-6 lead with 7:06 remaining in the first half.

The Divas led at halftime, 8-6, and they looked to build on their lead in the third period. Fullback Tiffany Matthews broke free for a 37-yard gain and appeared to be headed for an easy touchdown, but New York defensive back and wide receiver Adrienne Smith brought her down at the six-yard line. With first and goal at the six-yard line, the Divas appeared to be in a great position, but three straight runs lost two yards and Hamlin threw an incomplete pass on fourth down from the eight-yard line to turn the ball over on downs.

The Divas missed another opportunity later in the half. The offense got a first down at the New York one-yard line. But running back Rachelle Pecovsky was stopped on first down for no gain, and on second down, the Divas fumbled the ball, which was recovered by the Sharks at their own six-yard line.

Despite the numerous miscues and near-misses from the Divas’ offense, D.C. still maintained a two-point lead deep into the fourth quarter. With four minutes remaining in the game, the Sharks returned a punt to their own 46-yard line, still trailing, 8-6. Three straight completions from Mulligan to wide receiver Lisa Doran advanced the ball to the Divas’ 24-yard line.

After two incomplete passes, the Sharks faced a fourth-and-one situation at the Divas’ 24-yard line with two minutes remaining in the contest. The Divas’ defense needed just one more stop to secure a victory. Mulligan took the snap out of the shotgun and rolled to her left. She was unable to find a receiver but she dove forward for the first down marker. Mulligan was marked down right at the line to gain, and a measurement showed that she had narrowly gained a first down.

Two plays later, Mulligan found Doran over the middle, and Doran broke a tackle at the four-yard line and ran into the end zone for a touchdown with 1:23 left in the game. Mulligan’s 12-yard toss put the Sharks back ahead, and Mulligan then threw for the two-point conversion for a 14-8 New York lead.

The Divas tried to mount one final rally and moved the ball all the way down to the Sharks’ 27-yard line, but an interception ended the Divas’ hopes for a comeback win.

With a 4-3 record, the Divas will miss the playoffs this season for the first time since 2002. The Divas close their season next Saturday at home against the undefeated Pittsburgh Passion.

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