Long Island nearly had the hero of the first NCAA women's lacrosse national semifinal Friday night at Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium. Bay Shore's Gabi Wiegand scored the would-be game-winner for No. 1 seed Florida with nine seconds left in overtime but the goal was disallowed after her stick was ruled illegal during a routine stick check.
"We were obviously elated," Florida coach Amanda O'Leary said. "Thought the goal was a good goal and it was a great play that we set up. Unfortunately, stick checks are a part of the game and we found out it was illegal, so we get back on the defensive end."
West Babylon's Alyssa Murray called for the stick check, a common practice in the sport, and officials deemed the pocket of Wiegand's stick to be too deep. The game went to sudden-death double overtime, and Syracuse completed a seven-goal comeback to win, 14-13.
"It's just if anyone's on the field. I just ran over to the ref, a little crazed but, just calling a stick check is anyone who can get to the ref first," said Murray, who had three goals and an assist to take sole possession as the top point-scorer in the country (104). "Teams have done it to us; we've done it to teams. If it's the winning goal or the potential winning goal, you want to just make sure if there's anything you can do to call it back. We were fighting for our life and felt like that was just something I had to do."
Wiegand was unavailable for comment and scored one goal in the first half.
"It was rough for us because we were cheering and excited because we thought we had won the game," said Florida's Brittany Dashiell, who had four goals. "It's unfortunate but it was smart by Syracuse to call the stick check."
Former Northport superstar Shannon Gilroy had five goals and an assist for Florida (19-3), which was making its first national semifinals appearance in just its third year at the varsity level. It was Gilroy's first game back in her home state since tearing her left ACL with the Tigers in the state Class A championship last June.
Gilroy scored Florida's final goal with 7:19 left to snap a 3-0 Syracuse run and make the score 13-8.
"The game's never over until the buzzer goes off," Gilroy said. "We all got really excited after [making it 13-8] and we said, 'OK, let's keep going, game's not over yet.' But they were able to pull away."
Gilroy was also instrumental at draw controls for Florida and was in a battle with Syracuse's Kailah Kempney. Kempney edged Gilroy 7-6 at draw controls but the teams tied at 16. After Gilroy's goal with 7:19 to go, Syracuse went on to score five straight to send the game into overtime and the Orange eventually won in double-overtime.
"I don't think defensively we were as organized as what we needed to be," O'Leary said of Florida's inability to stop Syracuse's late run. "I think we had a breakdown defensively. It was about possession, it was about draw control. We needed to come up with those draws and I think we just needed to compete harder and literally come up with those draw controls and keep the ball up on the offensive end and play harder."
In the second semifinal game, West Babylon's Shannon Smith had four assists and Jessica Russo (St. Anthony's) had two goals as No. 2 Northwestern edged No. 3 Maryland, 9-7, to send the defending national champions back to the title game for the eighth time in the last eight seasons.
Erin Fitzgerald (Mount Sinai), Amanda Macaluso (Hauppauge), Kara Mupo (Rocky Point) and Lacey Vigmostad (Northport) each scored and Brianne LoManto (Rocky Point) made five saves for the Wildcats (20-2).
Maryland (19-4) lost to Northwestern in last season's national championship after defeating the Wildcats for the title in 2010. Kelly McPartland (Farmingdale) had a goal and Erin Collins (West Islip) and Shanna Brady (St. Anthony's) each contributed on defense for the Terrapins.
"It was really exciting coming home and I knew that Northwestern had a bunch of Long Island girls and we'd probably be outnumbered in a crowd but I'd say that me, Erin and Shanna brought in a good amount of people," McPartland said. "It's always devastating to lose, especially in front of so many people you know, so many people you care about but there's nothing we can do now."