PRINCETON, N.J. - Loyola's Rachel Shuck was supposed to find Suzanne Eyler rolling off a pick to put an end to yesterday's double-overtime women's lacrosse game at No. 1 Princeton, but Talia Shacklock filled in perfectly.
"We set that play up before we went out there," said Shuck, a Broadneck graduate and the Greyhounds' playmaker. "I was looking for Eyler to come off, but Talia did an awesome job improvising off of it. Their defense went to Eyler, and Talia was just there."
Shacklock's goal 55 seconds into sudden-death overtime gave the No. 5 Greyhounds the biggest upset of the season, 9-8, over the reigning national champion Tigers before 678 at Princeton's Class of 1952 Stadium.
In one of the most thrilling comebacks in the history of their program, the Greyhounds (3-0) rebounded from a sloppy first half and a three-goal deficit to take a 6-5 lead midway through the second half. From that point, they held off a determined Tigers squad that tied the game twice with just seconds to go.
Princeton (1-1) erased Loyola's 7-5 lead late in the second half and its 8-7 lead in the first overtime. Sarah Small tied the game at 7-7 with 29.3 seconds left in regulation and Theresa Sherry scored with 39.9 seconds left in the first overtime.
But when the game went into sudden-death overtime, Susan Tyrrell put the Greyhounds in position to win by winning the draw.
Shuck took the ball behind the net, waiting for Eyler to make her move from the top of the arc. With the Tigers' defense concentrating on Eyler, Shacklock broke free down the middle, took the pass from the right side and nailed it past Tigers goalie Sarah Kolodner.
"That last goal was a complete defensive breakdown," said Princeton's All-American Rachael Becker, who led the defense along with Katie Norbury. "We just didn't communicate on the pick and left the girl wide-open."
In her 15 years as Loyola coach, Diane Geppi-Aikens said only one game matched the thrill of yesterday's victory - the 1997 win over Maryland that stopped the Terps' 50-game winning streak.
"This ranks up close to that win over Maryland," Geppi-Aikens said. "It was one of the most exciting games I've ever coached and one of the best for spectators."
Yesterday's victory ended a 20-game Princeton winning streak that seemed headed for 21 in the first half. The Greyhounds took the early lead on Shuck's goal, but then the Tigers took control of their own turf with four straight goals.
Princeton took advantage of a succession of Greyhounds mistakes, including 12 turnovers and 12 fouls in the first half alone. At one point, Loyola turned the ball over on eight straight possessions.
In the second half, however, the Greyhounds looked like a different team. The took care of the ball, ran their offense and took a 6-5 lead when Eyler split a pair of defenders with 13:07 left in the game.
"We didn't really change our game plan for first half to second half," said Eyler. "We just played with more composure."
Freshman Sydney Green followed Eyler's lead with one of her three goals. Shuck set up the play by drawing two defenders and dumping to the open Green.
A turnover and a foul gave the Tigers the chance to catch up as Sherry scored her first goal of the game with 1:11 left before Small tied it.
Shuck and Green ran their draw-and-dump play again early in the first overtime for an 8-7 lead, but Sherry answered after the Tigers forced a turnover.
Tigers coach Chris Sailer lamented the loss of many opportunities, especially since her team outshot the Greyhounds 29-19 and had 36 ground balls to Loyola's 25.
"When you've got a team on the ropes, you've got to put them away. We had so many opportunities in that first half that we didn't capitalize on. We've got to give credit to their goalkeepers (Kara Lawton and Cindy Nicolaus), who combined for 16 saves, but we have to shoot a little better," said Sailer, whose team is wearing green shoelaces this season in support of Geppi-Aikens in her battle with brain cancer.
Loyola 2 5 1 1 - 9 Princeton 4 3 1 0 - 8
Goals: L-Green 3, Eyler 2, Shacklock 2, Shuck, Walker; P-Miller 2, Sherry 2, Fiore 2, Foster, Small. Assists: L-Shuck 3; P-Biles, Pillion. Saves: L-Lawton 10, Ci.Nicolaus 6; P-Kolodner 8.