Alyssa Murray must have a little Yogi Berra in her. Gabi Weigand's apparent winning goal was in the net with nine seconds left in the first overtime, and the No. 1-ranked Florida Gators were celebrating and exhaling all at once, thinking they had survived a determined comeback by Syracuse in the semifinals of the NCAA women's lacrosse tournament Friday night at LaValle Stadium.
But Murray knew the game isn't over until you check the depth of the pocket on the stick. "I just ran over to the ref a little crazed," West Babylon's Murray said. "If it's the potential winning goal, if there's anything you can do to call it back, we were fighting for our life."
Sure enough, Weigand's stick was ruled illegal. That sent play to a sudden-death situation in the second overtime period, where the Orange completed their comeback from a seven-goal deficit when Sarah Holden netted the winner for a 14-13 victory with 2:02 left. Syracuse (19-3) meets the winner of the late semifinal between Northwestern and Maryland for the title Sunday night at 8.
"We were elated," Florida coach Amanda O'Leary said of the goal that was denied. "We thought it was a great goal off a great play we had set up. Sticks are part of the game . . . It was smart [by Syracuse]." Bay Shore's Weigand did not appear at the postgame news conference.
Syracuse coach Gary Gait could only marvel at his team's grit after it trailed 12-5 with 17:15 left in regulation before putting together its 8-1 finishing run.
"Sometimes, it takes a little bit of divine intervention," Gait said, "and Alyssa Murray makes the big call on the stick."
Florida (19-3) dominated early as Northport's Shannon Gilroy, who had five goals, scored three straight for a 7-3 halftime lead. Murray, who had 70 goals and 100 points, struggled against Gators defender Emily Dohony and Florida's brilliant goaltender Mikey Meagher, who made 15 saves.
But Murray finally got going with a goal with 7:49 left in regulation that was the first of three by her in a span of 5:29 as Syracuse cut the deficit to 13-12. As the clock wound down, Florida had control until Meagher carried the ball near the restraining line and threw a wild pass out of bounds with 1:05 left.
O'Leary called her goaltender a "shining star," which she certainly was, but in that moment, Meagher admitted, "I panicked. It was a turnover, and it resulted in a goal at the other end."
Florida drew yellow cards with 55 and 35 seconds left and was two players down when Holden tied it with 30 seconds left. After surviving Weigand's shot to the heart in OT, Holden came up with the winner for Syracuse, and her stick was ruled legal.