One of the wildest endings in men's lacrosse this season took on an even crazier note when Dan Muller scored the game-winning goal from inside the midfield line as time expired to propel No. 3 seed Massachusetts to a 13-12 win over No. 2 seed Hofstra in a Colonial Athletic Association tournament semifinal at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson on Thursday night.
With the score knotted at 12, the Pride had the ball and an extra-man opportunity after freshman midfielder Jeff Trainor was flagged for holding with 23 seconds left in regulation. But after a shot by junior attackman Brendan Kavanagh sailed wide right, junior midfielder Dylan Alderman committed a turnover with two seconds remaining.
Awarded the ball with one second left just inside the midfield line on the Minutemen's offensive side of the field, Muller turned and fired the ball toward Hofstra junior goalkeeper Jack Concannon, who got a piece of the ball but could not fully prevent it from rolling into the net as the final horn sounded.
"I just kind of hucked it at the net and hoped for the best," said Muller, a redshirt senior midfielder who finished with four goals and one assist for Massachusetts (7-7). "I thought he saved it because I saw it hit him and then I saw it pop up behind him, and I just kind of went nuts. I didn't know what to do at first because I've never been a part of any play like that in my life. I was really confused, to be honest."
Massachusetts coach Greg Cannella, whose team will face top-seeded Towson (9-4) on Saturday at 1 p.m., called the play "incredible" and Muller "instinctive" for having the presence of mind to take a chance when many players might have simply opted for overtime. The rule regarding last-second goals was changed a couple years ago from the ball crossing the goal line before time ran out to the ball leaving the stick before the buzzer sounded.
Cannella said he did not even look at the officials to confirm that the goal counted.
"I knew because I heard the horn and the ball was in the air," he said. "I knew when it went in and everybody on our bench knew it. And then I think the officials were like, 'What?' Yeah, it's crazy."
Not surprisingly, the ending was crushing for the Pride (11-3), which at one point had been the last undefeated team in Division I and had been ranked as high as No. 2 in the Inside Lacrosse poll. Coach Seth Tierney's voice brimmed with emotion as he defending Concannon, an All-CAA first-team selection.
"We're not in this game without Jack Concannon," he said. "That's the first thing that came out of my mouth. Jack Concannon is, if not the best goalie in the country, one of the best goalies in the country. When a game ends like that, it's almost like it wasn't meant to be. How do you do everything right to fight back in a game like that? And to lose like that, I don't know what to say."