With 47 seconds left in regulation in yesterday's NCAA Division III women's lacrosse semifinal, defending champion College of New Jersey had a one-goal lead and the ball, but one quick turnover dashed any hope for a repeat.
Amherst used the turnover - a misdirected pass in the Lions' attacking end with 23 seconds left - to tie the game and go on to win 11-10 in overtime at Johns Hopkins' Homewood Field.
Abigail Ouimet finished off a transition goal with 12 seconds left to tie it at 10-10. Just over a minute into overtime, Sarah Scheessele dodged her way through several defenders to net the game-winner.
The No. 2 Jeffs (17-2) will be looking for their first national title when they face No. 1 Middlebury at noon today. Middlebury (16-0) defeated No. 6 Mary Washington, 14-4, in the other semifinal.
Amherst's victory came despite a lopsided Lions advantage in several major statistical categories - more shots (37-20), more ground balls (40-27) and fewer turnovers (20-32). But the Jeffs were able to take better advantage of their opportunities and gained some momentum in rallying back from an 8-4 deficit less than two minutes after the half.
"My eyes started to fill with tears [with 28 seconds left]," said Ouimet, "because I didn't want to lose this game after we had come back and gotten so close. It was just great. Allison Aldrich got the ball at midfield ... she just drew my defender and passed off."
The No. 3 Lions took the first shot in overtime, but Amherst goalie Brooke Diamond snared it and soon after, Scheessele scored the game-winner.
Diamond, who finished with 19 saves, made four in the six-minute overtime period to hold off the Lions (12-2).
The Lions have won 10 of the 15 Division III titles and have gone 60-3 over the past four years. All three losses have been to Amherst, including an 8-7 decision earlier this season that ended a 121-game regular-season win streak.
The story will be different when the Jeffs meet Middlebury. Both of Amherst's losses this season have come at the hands of the Panthers - 18-11 during the regular season and 9-6 in the New England Small Colleges conference final.
The Panthers had an easier time yesterday, rolling up a 7-0 lead and cruising into the title game for the fourth time in six years.
Homewood Field has been good to the Panthers, who won their only championship in 1999 at Johns Hopkins. That year, the Panthers finished with their best record ever at 17-0, and they could match that with a win today.
The Panthers dominated the first-time semifinalist Eagles for all but a two-minute stretch of the second half. They outshot the Eagles, 50-16, but Eagles goalie Heather Carter (Liberty) made 21 saves.
The Eagles (15-5) struggled to find holes in Middlebury's zone.
"They just had great defense - a new zone defense we haven't really played against," said Eagles sophomore Pam Kramer, who scored two second-half goals.
The Panthers also pressured a lot in the midfield and caused 26 turnovers - 14 in the first half.
It didn't help the Eagles to lose their top scorer, Bridget Geiman (Westminster), to an ankle injury midway through the first half.
M.Washington 1 3 - 4 Middlebury 7 7 - 14
Goals: MW-Gervat 2, Kramer 2; M-Glessner 3, Bergofsky 2, Simpson 2, Hanley 2, Wheeler 2, Bonney, Cox, Wilson. Assists: MW-Kramer; M-Hanley 5, Wheeler 2, Simpson. Saves: MW-Carter 21; M-Grenert 5.
CNJ 6 4 0 - 10 Amherst 4 6 1 - 11
Goals: CNJ- Prindible 3, O'Connor 2, Heller 2, Wagenblast 2, McCall; A-Ouimet 5. Osborn 2, Scheessele 2, Aldrich, Allen. Assists: CNJ-Durkin; A-Beaumont, Aldrich. Saves: CNJ- Trockenbrod 6; A-Diamond 19.