Seriously, ladies, what are you going to do next? After seeing a 7-3 halftime deficit grow to 12-5 with 17 minutes and change left, I was prepared to waste a couple of paragraphs here bitching about Long Island traffic (long story short, it sucked). Between twitter snippets and bits and bobs from the crowd, Things didn't seem to be going in favor of the Orange. The score was 5-3 Florida when we arrived, and Gator goalie and Liverpool native Mikey Meagher had 7 saves and 9 on the half. Curse of the hot goalie strikes again. The second half didn't start out much better.
Florida scored two quick goals on Kelsey Richardson, who came in at the start of the second half in relief of Alyssa Constantino and pushed the lead to 9-3. Katie Webster scored for the Orange to stop a five goal run by the Gators and made the score 9-4. Ashley Bruns answered a minute later to put the Gators back up 6 at 10-4. Then things got weird. Alyssa Murray scored to make the game 10-5 - or did she? The goal was put up on the board, then the zebras confabbed, took the goal off the board and went over to the side lines to have a chit chat with the head coaches. The official NCAA play by play record shows Murray as picking up a ground ball then turning it over. After a lengthy delay, play resumed, and predictably, the Gators took the ball down field a popped in a goal. Brittany Dashiell scored to put the Florida up 11-4 and give the Gators their largest lead of the game.
I think what we'll see in this game is one of two things - the Orange keep it close in the first half and eke out a win in the second, or they come out flat and Florida blows the doors off. It's very possible that Florida wins in a close game, but if it is close, I just can't see the Orange not winning. I'll be pleasantly shocked if the Orange blow out the Gators to win. I'm going to call it 12-11 in double overtime for the Orange, because hey, it worked last time.
At that point, it certainly looked like Florida blow out prediction rather than the double OT prediction was coming to fruition, and I honestly have to admit I did not expect the Orange to win the game at point. Florida was all over the Orange. They looked faster, were seemingly winning every ground ball and generally controlling the play. Any time the Orange tried to take control, the Gators had an answer and snuffed out the attempt. Things settled down for a bit as the Orange and Gators swapped possessions for almost six minutes until Devon Collins scored at 11:38 to make it 12-6. Michelle Tumulo and Alyssa Murray then scored for the Orange and the game was now 12-8 at the 7:49 mark.
The Orange had a faint breath of life at that point and I started to wonder if they didn't have another miracle in them. Shannon Gilroy scored for Florida thirty seconds later and it 13-8 with 7:19 left to play. Maybe not. At that point a few of the Syracuse fans in the stands around us got up and left. I felt the same way - looked like another Florida answer to stuff a potential rally. Gilroy had been a beast for Florida up to that point in the game. That was her fifth goal of the game, and she had 4 in the first half to outscore the Orange all by herself.
Kailah Kempney won the ensuing draw for the Orange, and fifty one seconds later Sarah Holden potted one to pull the Orange back to within 4 at 13-9 with 6:28 to play. I was convinced at that point that the game had titled for the Orange. What I wasn't convinced of was did they have enough time? Linley Block scooped the ball on the ensuing draw and Alyssa Murray converted a free position attempt. 13-10 Orange with 5:03 to play. Brittany Dashiell controlled the draw for Florida and the Gators went into kill the clock mode. Janelle Stegeland committed a major foul and got a two minute yellow card for a stick to the head.
I don't recall clearly at this point if the Florida shot was a free position try (I don't think it was, and the PxP record agrees) but Kelsey Richardson saved a shot by Shannon Gilroy and the Orange had the ball back with 3:52 left and down a player. No problem, right? Right. Sarah Holden scores, assist to Alyssa Murray. 13-11, 2:49 to play. Draw Control Kailah Kempney, time out Orange, 2:41 to play. Alyssa Murray scores, assist to Michelle Tumulo. 13-12, 2:20 to play. Kailah Kempney draw control, time out Orange, 2:14 to play.
That was one hell of a sequence. The Orange scored two, count 'em TWO, man down goals in twenty seconds to get within one and now had the ball with two minutes and change left to tie things up. Game over, man. Game over. Once play resumed the Orange held the ball for twenty seconds or so until Stegeland's penalty expired and they were back to even strength. Mikey Meagher denied Sarah Holden with 1:39 to play, and at that point, well, it looked like the magic might have run out, except that Meagher turned the ball over on the clear attempt and Florida started to come unglued.
Emily Dohony drew a yellow card on a major foul (on Michelle Tumulo, I think). The Orange opted not to shoot, worked the ball around and Kayla Stolins committed another major foul for a yellow card and Sarah Holden buried the free position to tie the game at 13 with thirty seconds left. Orange fans were going just a little bit nuts. Kailah Kempney controlled the draw (again!) and the Orange rushed in looking to win in regulation. Sam Farrell absolutely crushed Michelle Tumulo (Tumulo took a beating in the latter stages of the game) with 11 seconds left. Meagher saved the free position attempt by Tumulo, and it didn't matter that Florida turned the ball over on the clear, there wasn't enough time left for the Orange to generate any offense. Time for overtime.
Kailah Kempney won the draw to start the first three minute period. Sarah Holden had a free position attempt blocked a minute into the period, but Syracuse got the ball back on a forced turn over. Michelle Tumulo's shot with three seconds left went wide, and time expired. The teams switched ends for the second three minute period, and Nora Barry controlled the draw for Florida. Florida called time out, and then went into stall mode when play resumed. Gabi Wiegand appeared to win the game for Florida when she scored with 9 seconds left, leaving Syracuse almost no time to control a draw and tie the score to force a second overtime.
However, as Lee Corso likes to say, not so fast my friends. Wiegand's goal was disallowed because of an illegal stick. Not even Hollywood could make something like that up. An illegal stick? SERIOUSLY? Florida's coach argued the stick call for a good three minutes before Syracuse was awarded possession and ran out the clock to move to sudden victory overtime. Do I even need to tell you that Kailah Kempney controlled the draw to start the next overtime period? Syracuse called time out off the draw control, and Sarah Holden's goal less than a minute later to win the game was almost anti-climatic, as exciting as it was. Her stick was also legal, in case you were wondering.
I was pretty emphatic after the North Carolina game that that was the most exciting game I had seen in person in a good long time. Until last night. Brian Higgins agrees. The Orange women laxers are like a cat these last two games with these improbable escapes from apparent defeat. Hopefully they saved at least one life for tomorrow's title game against Northwestern, who beat Maryland 9-7. Also hoping Brianne LoManto (Northwestern's goalie) won't have a case of goalie on fire. Meagher finished with 15 saves last night, and last week Lauren Maksym had 11.
Two things of note here. The first is the officiating. I make no secret about the fact that I find the officiating at all levels of nearly all sports abysmal. NFL, NCAA men's hoops, my daughter's modified lacrosse games. Today was no different. There were a number length delays (3-5 minutes each) where the officials would meet on the field to discuss SOMETHING and then act as if nothing happened, nor offer up any sort of explanation as to why you were scratching your head in confusion.
The second is the women's lacrosse team itself. The NCAA had set up an autograph session with the two teams after the game. Shuttle through the line and the girls signed a poster for you. They were all extremely polite and friendly. A couple of them seemed mildly disinterested but wore a pleasant smile while they went about their business. Several thanked us for coming, and asked us if we were going to be there Sunday, which was both nice and sad. I say sad, because after having been to the Dome for a some games and seeing a crowd of a few hundred people on a regular basis, I think they were genuinely thrilled to play in front of a packed house, as LaValle was mostly full. No amount of shouting and cajoling will change the fact that for the most part, women's sporting events are largely ignored, but seriously folks, if you have a chance, go to a women's game, any game in any sport anywhere, and watch the girls get their game on. It's fun, entertaining, and won't cost you an arm and a leg unless you live at the concessions stand.
Syracuse: Michelle Tumulo (3/2/5), Sarah Holden (4/0/4), Alyssa Murray (3/1/4), Devon Collins (2/0/2), Katie Webster (2/0/2), Linley Block (0/1/1)