VILLANOVA, Pa. - Lacrosse is rarely played at 11 p.m., at least not in front of 9,291 fans, so North Carolina's players could be forgiven for their delirium following the longest women's lacrosse championship game in NCAA history.
"The ball ended up in my stick, I couldn't honestly tell you how," junior midfielder Brittney Coppa said. "Sammy Jo [Tracy] popped in. I just saw it in the back of the net and threw my stick."
Freshman Sammy Jo Tracy delivered the winner off an assist from Coppa 31 seconds into the third six-minute overtime, and North Carolina won its first women's lacrosse title, 13-12, over Maryland late Sunday night at Villanova Stadium.
"I just let one rip," Tracy said, before adding with a laugh, "just like we do every day at practice."
Maryland won the draw to begin the frame, but another UNC freshman, goalie Megan Ward, stoned Brooke Griffin on a breakaway to set up Tracy's winner. "I knew if I made the save, the attack would come down and score it," Ward said.
North Carolina's path to the title was treacherous. The Tar Heels (18-3) beat two-time defending champ Northwestern before knocking off No. 1 seed Maryland. It was a year and a day since the last time Maryland (22-1), which has won 10 NCAA championships, lost.
"It was an amazing game to be a part of," said UNC coach Jenny Levy, who has helmed the Heels for 18 seasons. "After the second or third overtime, I just kind of sat back and trusted my kids."
UNC's Kara Cannizzaro had four goals and two assists. Taylor Cummings led Maryland with three goals and an assist.
UNC had several scoring chances early in overtime, but Kasey Howard kept the Terps alive, with four of her five saves coming in OT. "The goalies came up big," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. "I think this one will probably go down as one of the more exciting national championship games in the history of the sport."
Maryland had the ball to end regulation and both halves of the first overtime but failed to score. UNC led 9-6 at halftime -- the largest deficit Maryland faced all season and the only time it trailed at the break all year.
The Terps scored five goals in 11 minutes after halftime to take an 11-9 lead. UNC answered with three straight, including back-to-back from Cannizzaro to tie it and go up 12-11. Alex Aust faked high and went low to tie it at 12 with 3:51 left.
UNC lost just three times all season, twice to Maryland.
"There literally are not any words I can use to describe it," Cannizzaro said. "This is the one and only moment that we're shining. It's the best feeling in the world."