Taylor Marchetti and Aubrey Hoover had just the right connection Wednesday night to give C. Milton Wright's girls lacrosse team its second straight overtime regional championship over Hereford.
A little over a minute into the overtime period, Marchetti scored on a pass from Hoover for a 9-8 victory in the Class 3A-2A regional final. First, the Mustangs needed the two to connect for a goal with 0.2 of a second left in regulation.
After C. Milton Wright's Jordan Landsman won the draw with 5:32 left in the game and the Mustangs trailing 8-7, Hereford got the ball back and Bulls coach Anne Ensor called a timeout to tell her team to use up the rest of the clock. While trying to stall, the Bulls turned the ball over twice, but got the first one back.
With 13.6 seconds left in regulation, however, the Bulls turned the ball over again and Marchetti raced downfield where she found Hoover open in front of the goal.
"I just knew that I had to catch it and shoot it right away," Hoover said.
Just after the turnover, the Bulls picked up a yellow card with 9.8 seconds left in regulation and the Mustangs remained man-up into overtime.
Moriah Snyder won the draw for the Mustangs, who worked the ball until Hoover spotted Marchetti open in front of the goal for the extra-man goal.
"We did a really good job winning the draw," Marchetti said, "and we were really patient, working it around. Aubrey made a great pass. I caught it and I shot. It was just all about being patient and not forcing anything. In overtime, everyone's nervous and they're really excited at the same time, but you have to be patient."
The two sophomores combined for six goals, with Marchetti finishing with four, as well as an assist each.
The Mustangs advance to play Stephen Decatur in the state semifinals Friday or Saturday at Mount Hebron High School. This is the fourth regional title in seven years for C. Milton Wright which won its only state championship in 2004 in Class 4A-3A.
For the Bulls, who never trailed until Marchetti netted the game winner, the reality that they could lose again in overtime was stunning.
"Brutal," Ensor said. The stall "went well until the last 9.8 seconds and they proved you can get from one end to the other in less than 10 seconds. It was a well-played game on both ends."
Last year, the game was back and forth with seven ties and five lead changes before it was decided in double overtime. This time, the Bulls jumped out to a 3-0 lead and led a good portion of the game by multiple goals.
Hereford, which won three state titles between 2001-2003, set the tone early with strong defense as Dana Meehling, Erin Williams and Sam Swope each had an interception. Kylie Nause scored the first goal and Bella Peterson, who finished with five goals, added two more for a 3-0 lead midway through the first half.
Marchetti scored on a free position and Georgia Beachley finished off a transition goal to pull C. Milton Wright within 3-2. The rest of the game went the same way. The Bulls pulled ahead by three twice more and the Mustangs cut it to one.
Back-to-back free-position goals from Gracie Sanders and Peterson boosted Hereford's lead to 8-5 with 14:31 left. Snyder cut the lead to 8-6 with 12:22 to go.
Swope and the defense then made a handful of plays to hold the Mustangs at bay when two yellow cards left the Bulls two players down. The freshman goalie made two of her six saves during that stretch and the Mustangs turned the ball over twice.
But Snyder got them on the board again, cutting the lead to 8-7 with 5:32 to go before Hereford went into the slow-down offense.
For the Mustangs, who fell to eventual state champion Glenelg in the state semifinals last year, another chance to play for the title is exactly what they wanted.
"It feels really good and I think we need to come back and prove that we deserve to win a state championship," Hoover said. "We're just looking forward to what happens later this week."
Goals: CMW--Marchetti 4, A.Hoover 2, Snyder 2, Beachley; H--B.Peterson 5, May, Nause, Sanders. Assists: CMW--Marchetti, Hoover, Frank; H--none. Saves: CMW--Dipeso 2; Haren 4; H--Swope 6.Half: H, 4-3.