Recap vs. New York Sharks – June 6, 2009

Divas Remain Unbeaten With 34-18 Win Over New York
DC 34, New York 18
By Rich Daniel

Landover, MD – It wasn’t always pretty, but it was enough to keep an undefeated season alive for the D.C. Divas.

Two back-breaking kickoff returns for touchdowns helped the Divas seize momentum when they needed it most, and they held off the New York Sharks in a competitive game, 34-18. The Divas (7-0) overcame four turnovers and just one pass completion on offense to defeat the Sharks for the fourth time in five all-time meetings between the two historic franchises.

The Divas got off to a rough start, committing two turnovers on their first two offensive possessions. The Sharks (4-3) took advantage, marching down the field and scoring a touchdown on a five-yard run by quarterback Karen Mulligan for an early 6-0 lead. It was the first time all season that the Divas had found themselves behind on the scoreboard.

It lasted all of 21 seconds. The Divas returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards, breaking several New York tackles on the way to the end zone for a touchdown. The Divas converted the extra point kick and pulled out in front, 7-6, after one quarter of play.

The offensive line had perhaps their best night of the season, as they led the way for a season-high 253 rushing yards. The Divas extended their lead early in the second quarter when Allyson Hamlin capped a long, 11-play drive with a one-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown and a 14-6 advantage.

Midway through the second quarter, the Divas got their first turnover of the game, picking off a Mulligan pass at the Sharks’ 31-yard line. The Divas took advantage of the favorable field position, finishing off a short drive to the end zone with a five-yard run and scoring a third touchdown with just under two and a half minutes remaining in the first half. The Divas went ahead of the Sharks, 21-6, and were seemingly in command of the game.

But New York showed a mastery of the two-minute offense, methodically driving down the field and scoring on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Mulligan to wide receiver Chante Bonds with just 27 seconds left in the half. New York’s Adrienne Smith was sacked on a two-point conversion attempt, but the Sharks had still pulled back within 21-12.

With only 27 seconds remaining before intermission, the Divas looked destined to carry a nine-point lead into the halftime break. But just as they had done after the Sharks’ first touchdown, the Divas responded to the New York score by returning the ensuing kickoff to the end zone, this time on an 80-yard kickoff return touchdown. The Divas’ stunning reversal with just 12 seconds left in the half put the home team on top at halftime, 27-12.

The Divas’ defense controlled the third quarter against the Sharks. D.C.’s Amanda Clements appeared to score a game-clinching touchdown on a 25-yard interception return, but the play was negated by a penalty. Nevertheless, the Divas’ defense forced five turnovers against the Sharks on the evening, two of them by linebacker Trigger McNair.

Divas running back Rachelle Pecovsky, a Seventh-day Adventist who has been playing only after sundown this season on account of her religious beliefs, once again made a noticeable second-half impact. Pecovsky added 31 yards rushing after intermission, and her one-yard touchdown run with under nine minutes to play staked the Divas to an insurmountable 34-12 lead. The Sharks added a touchdown run with less than two minutes left in the game to make the final score 34-18.

The Divas are now just one victory away from their fifth undefeated regular season in the last six years. They will try to close out a perfect regular season slate next week at home against the Philadelphia Firebirds.

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