FOXBORO, Mass. -- The magnitude of the moment hit Dowling's Vito DeMola during the bus ride from Long Island on Saturday. "We were laughing and singing songs and then the coaches handed us letters from our parents,'' said DeMola, a senior from Sachem East. "We went from singing 'Sweet Caroline' to crying."
Now, in the heart of Red Sox country, the Golden Lions and their loud, loyal alumni who made the trip are joyously chanting the favorite verse of the Fenway faithful: "So good! So good! So good!"
DeMola had four goals and two assists as Dowling held off Limestone (S.C.), 11-10, to win the Division II men's lacrosse national championship in front of 17,005 at Gillette Stadium. It's the program's first national title and the second overall in school history. Dowling's men's soccer team won the Division II championship in 2006.
DeMola's rocket from the top of the slot with 5:20 left gave Dowling (13-2) an 11-8 lead. But Limestone (17-2) scored twice to cut the deficit to one with 1:39 left. The Saints managed a couple of decent shots on goalie Ryan Dougherty (Comsewogue) in the final seconds but couldn't force overtime.
"I've seen Syracuse do it. I saw Post do it," DeMola said of raucous on-field celebrations. "But when the horn went off, I didn't know what to do. Who was kissing me on the cheek? Who should I hug?"
There were plenty of candidates. Brendan Hayes (Eastport-South Manor) had three early assists as Dowling built a 4-0 lead. Defenseman Matt Lauria (Babylon) held Limestone's leading scorer, Riley Loewen, to one goal and one assist. Faceoff specialist Louis Riley (Smithtown West) won 14 of 25, many of them in critical moments.
"It's hard to put into words what this means. It really hasn't hit me yet," said Hayes, who sat at the postgame podium with Riley, DeMola and coach Tim Boyle, happily concealed by the large trophy that read "NCAA Champion."
"We had a philosophy all year of believe, commit and follow through," Boyle said. He recalled how difficult it was May 6 when Dowling lost to Limestone, 15-7. "It was senior day and we were really low. We thought we were out of the playoffs."
But Dowling earned an invitation into the field of four and defeated Mercyhurst -- the other team it lost to this season -- to punch its ticket to the championship game.
"You rarely get the opportunity to make up for your mistakes, and we got to do it twice," Boyle said. "You can't write that."
The winning script also included clutch goals from Matt Muzio (Newfield) to break a tie at 4; Kevin McElhone (Ward Melville) to tie it at 7; Billy Richardson (Sachem North) to give the Golden Lions an 8-7 lead they never relinquished, and, of course, DeMola, who was voted the game's most outstanding player.
Dowling's offense usually runs through its midfield, but Limestone did a good job stopping that unit, opening things up for DeMola. "They didn't play me that tight," he said. "I wasn't offended. Everyone on this team has a role."
On Sunday, DeMola's role was to take over the offense. "Just getting the first one was cool," he said. "You get your face up on the giant scoreboard, you see a replay of your goal and then the camera finds you. There's no greater feeling."
He liked the feeling so much, he repeated it three more times. So good! So good! So good!