TOWSON, Md. - With less than five minutes remaining in the NCAA Division I women's lacrosse final last night at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium, Northwestern began playing keep-away.

That signaled that time was running out on a Penn squad making its first appearance in the national championship game.

Northwestern, which eliminated Penn last spring in the national semifinals at Franklin Field, captured its fourth straight championship last night with a 10-6 victory in front of 6,125 fans, a record crowd for the event. The Wildcats also avenged their only loss of the season.

It marked the first time that a Penn team appeared in an NCAA-sanctioned national title game in any sport.

Penn did not have many scoring opportunities during the first 30 minutes as Northwestern (21-1) maintained control of the ball. The Quakers (17-2) trailed by 5-2 at the break.

The Wildcats padded their lead by scoring three times in a span of 1 minute, 28 seconds of the second half to hold a 8-3 advantage with 22:36 left.

Goals by Chelsea Kocis, Ali DeLuca and Rachel Manson pulled Penn to within 8-6 with 13:43 to go, but that was as close as the Quakers would get.

"They definitely controlled some draws, and they work you hard," said Penn coach Karin Brower, who claimed her 100th career win Friday as the Quakers earned a 9-8 semifinal victory over Duke in double overtime.

"They have very methodical plays, and you try to prepare for those plays as hard as you can. But they have a lot of threats on that attack. I have to give a lot of credit to Northwestern. Four national championships are incredible."

Northwestern earned the berth against Penn by running away from Syracuse with a 16-8 win Friday.

The Quakers, who saw their school-record 15-game winning streak snapped, owned an 11-7 triumph against visiting Northwestern that came April 27.

That was Northwestern's only loss, and it snapped the Wildcats' 36-game winning streak, which dated back to the second game of last season.

On the first sequence of the game last night, Penn turned the ball over and it led to a fastbreak for Northwestern. But the Wildcats misfired under pressure from the Quakers, who raced downfield for an unassisted goal by the sophomore DeLuca - and a 1-0 edge with only 1:08 gone.

Northwestern tied the game about 31/2 minutes later when Hannah Nielsen ran past the front of the goal and scored from the right side. The Wildcats took a 2-1 lead with 20:08 remaining in the half when Meghan Plunkett scored from right in front of the goal off a pass from Hilary Bowen.

Bowen, who scored three times, put her team up by two goals with 16:10 showing on the clock when she charged in and took a sweet pass from Nielsen, who was positioned to the left of the goal.

Quick passes from Bowen to Nielsen to Katrina Dowd put Penn in a 4-1 hole with 11:28 remaining.

The Quakers cut the deficit to two goals on a Kaitlyn Lombardo score off a free position shot. But Northwestern's Meredith Frank ran unchecked for almost 15 yards before depositing the ball in the net with 11 seconds to go to make it 5-2 at the break.

"This game is a lot about possession, and we didn't have the ball," said Penn goalie Sarah Waxman. "I think Northwestern is a four-time national champion for a reason."

The Quakers' Manson, Melissa Lehman and Hilary Renna were named to the all-tournament team.

Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum at 215-854-2583 or ktatum@phillynews.com.