Maryland's Allison Comito tumbled backward to the ground after firing a shot with eight seconds left in double overtime of yesterday's NCAA Division I women's lacrosse championship.
"I didn't even know if it went in," said Comito, who had been open in the middle of the arc, where Tori Wellington fed her the ball. "Then I heard Tori just shouting and I jumped up and into her arms. I knew we had won."
Seconds later, the two were mobbed by the rest of the No. 1 Terrapins, celebrating the goal that finally ended a marathon, 14-13 struggle with No. 3 Georgetown before 3,535 at Johns Hopkins' Homewood Field.
The victory crowned the Terrapins national champs for the seventh year in a row and 10th time overall. Seven is the longest active title-winning streak in NCAA Division I women's sports.
"It's like a fairy tale, and all good fairy tales have happy endings," said two-time National Player of the Year Jen Adams. "It's the greatest feeling when you have a team that's so strong and such great friends and they put it all out on the field for each other. You have to step off and say, 'We are national champions and we did it together.' "
The Terps polished off the fourth unbeaten season in team history at 23-0 and continued impressive winning streaks of 43 games and 20 national tournament games. They have never lost an overtime game in the national tournament.
Early on, it seemed as though the Terps would romp.
They rolled to an 8-1 lead with 11:20 left in the first half, but the Hoyas (17-3) were far from finished. Although the Terps never trailed, Georgetown rallied to tie at 12 in regulation and again at 13 in the first overtime.
NCAA rules call for a six-minute overtime period, followed by sudden-death periods of three minutes.
In sudden death, the Terps held off an early Hoyas assault when Erin Elbe, who had scored six goals, missed a shot just wide. The Hoyas kept the ball for another 35 seconds before Terps defender Kerri Mulligan got her stick in the way of Sheehan Stanwick's pass, and Maryland took possession.
At the far end, Adams drove through the arc drawing a double team. Her pass to Meg McNamara clipped off McNamara's stick, but Wellington scooped up the ground ball and looked inside.
"I just saw Al wide-open in the middle," Wellington said. "I think even before she shot the ball, I knew that it was going in."
The Hoyas, who had held Maryland to three goals in the second half, could hardly believe Comito had gotten loose for the goal.
"We were focussing a lot on Adams and [Quinn] Carney, and Comito just slipped into the middle," said the Hoyas' Gloria Lozano. "She was in the right place at the right time and she just finished."
Wellington said yesterday's victory proved more rewarding to her and the other nine seniors than any of their previous titles.
"It is the most gratifying, because we worked so hard for it," Wellington said. "So many people doubted us and we overcame everything. We really proved ourselves ... and to know what we've accomplished here is the best feeling I've had in four years."
Late in the regulation, the Terps' defense held off several Hoyas threats, including two Stanwick free-position shots in the final five minutes. Terps goalie Alexis Venechanos snared them both. The sophomore made 14 saves, including one against Kate Ahearn on a free position early in overtime.
Courtney Martinez, named most valuable player of the tournament, held Stanwick, the Hoyas' all-time leading scorer, to two goals."[Terps coach Cindy Timchal] wanted to keep Sheehan out of the 8-meter [arc]," Martinez said. "I knew she liked to attack from up top or she likes to roll the crease, so I worked on keeping her out and playing strong team defense. Our team really stepped up, helping each other out."
Stanwick did, however, make a big play in overtime, feeding Elbe off an 8-meter free position to tie the game 13-13 with 1:50 left in the first overtime.
Maryland had gotten on the board first in overtime when freshman Kelly Coppedge vacuumed up a loose ball and fired her third goal past Hoyas goalie Bowen Holden.
With the victory, Timchal moved to the top of the chart for wins by a college women's lacrosse coach. Her 268 career victories over 20 years, including the past 11 at Maryland, move her one ahead of William Smith's Pat Genovese, who is also still active.
Adams completed her career by boosting her collegiate lacrosse records to 445 points and 174 assists. The Australian is also the leading scorer in NCAA tournament history with 69 career points. Carney is second with 47.