The desperation shot from just a few steps inside the midfield line by Massachusets’ Dan Muller that ostensibly ended Hofstra’s season Thursday night was a poor tactical decision and would not have counted as recently as 2012.
Hofstra was in a man-up situation in the final minute of a tie game when it turned the ball over on an over-and-back infraction with two seconds left in the CAA tournament semifinals. If Muller had just held the ball, the more common tactic, the Minutemen would have begun the overtime period with possession.
Instead he took a risky, low-percentage shot that, had it missed, would have given Hofstra the ball to start the extra period with a man advantage.
But the senior midfielder wound up and fired a laser from about 35 yards out that eluded Pride goalie Jack Concannon, a strong candidate for All-American honors who had made 11 saves including two late ones to preserve the tie.
“I apparently made the mistake of shooting the ball,” Muller told the media after the game. “I didn’t know the rules, so I just chucked it at the net, hoped for the best. I thought he saved it ... then I saw the ball pop up behind him. I just kind of went nuts, didn’t know what to do. I’d never been a part of any play like that in my life.”
Muller celebrated the stunning 13-12 upset victory by doing a belly flop in the end zone of Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium, sliding around joyously on the rain-soaked turf.
The shot, which was launched with about one second left and crossed the goal line after the final horn, counted because men’s lacrosse has used basketball-style rules for last-second shots since the inception of the shot clock for the 2013 season. Prior to that season, the ball had to be in the net before the final buzzer to count.
UMass coach Greg Cannella said he’d never been part of an ending like that in his 23 years coaching at the university. “We’ve been in overtime games ... but never a game where we were up big, then they come back, and then we score a goal,” he said. “And it’s only been a couple years since that goal counts. Incredible. Instinctive by Dan to turn and shoot it, and incredible that it went in.”
The dramatic ending that likely ended Hofstra’s hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid -- the 11-3 Pride won’t know until Sunday night’s official selection announcement -- obscured a gritty comeback from deficits of 8-3 at halftime and 10-4 late in the third quarter. Hofstra scored the final three goals of the third quarter — two by Brendan Kavanagh and one by Michael Diener — that made it 10-7.
It also overshadowed superb games by senior Josh Byrne, who scored five goals including one that tied it at 12 with 4:14 left, and freshman Ryan Tierney, who scored four goals.
“Who writes an ending like this?” an emotional Hofstra coach Seth Tierney said afterwards. “Vicious. I don’t even know what to say. We’re down 10-4, then it was 12-12. ... The character that these guys showed.”
Coach Tierney, who is Ryan’s father, exonerated his goalie.
"We’re not in this game without Jack Concannon. So that’s the first thing that came out of my mouth [in post-game comments to his team]. Jack is, if not the best goalie in the country, one of the best goalies in the country. When a game ends like that, it almost wasn’t meant to be. How do you do everything right to fight back and lose like that? I don’t know what to say. I love this team, I love our guys. It was an unbelievable joy to coach this team.”