May 19, 2012

Tumolo Carries Syracuse to Comeback Over North Carolina

by Stephen Bailey | | Live Blog Replay

Michelle Tumolo scored with five seconds left to give Syracuse a 17-16 win over North Carolina and send the Orange to the final four. She also assisted on the game-tying goal in the final minute and pulled Syracuse within a goal with 2:24 left.
© Greg Wall

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Michelle Tumolo made her case for the Tewaaraton Award Saturday afternoon.

The junior attack almost single-handedly brought the Orange back from a two-goal deficit with three minutes remaining in regulation, recording two goals, an assist and a crucial forced turnover that sparked a miraculous 17-16 comeback win against North Carolina in an NCAA women's lacrosse quarterfinal at the Carrier Dome.

Her game-winning goal with five seconds left capped the incredible 180 second outburst.

"It was just pure bliss," Tumolo said. "I really was trying not to go out of this game without a win. I just basically took it under my belt to win the game. At the last second, I had the ball and I just waited for enough time to be able to score and not let them have time to score."

Tumolo's heroics -- she assisted on the Kailah Kempney's tying goal with 39 seconds left and scored to pull the Orange within one with 2:24 to go -- helped extend the winningest season in Syracuse women's lacrosse history as the fourth-seeded Orange (18-3) escaped the fifth-seeded Tar Heels (15-4) in front of 815 in the Dome. With the win, Syracuse advances to the final four in Stony Brook, N.Y., where it will face top-seeded Florida, which demolished Penn State 15-2 in its quarterfinal matchup.

Tumolo finished the game with a team-high four goals, sophomores Katie Webster and Alyssa Murray added three goals apiece and even freshmen Kempney, Devon Collins and Gabby Jaquith also contributed, combining for five scores.

"I'm just proud of the team," Syracuse head coach Gary Gait said. "They believed they could get it done. Every single player on the team stepped up at one point and made a huge play, and that made the difference. They stuck together and gave themselves an opportunity to fight back and win that game."

But it was Tumolo who thwarted what appeared to be a victory-worthy performance from the Tar Heels.

North Carolina's Laura Zimmerman and Kara Cannizzaro tallied six and five goals respectively, manipulating the SU defense throughout the game. Tar Heels goalkeeper Lauren Maksym made a slew of impressive second-half saves, including a point-blank denial of Devon Collins with UNC leading 15-14 and 5:15 left in regulation.

But after Zimmerman scored two minutes later and UNC's Brittney Coppa controlled the draw to seemingly punch the Tar Heels' ticket to Stony Brook, Tumolo took over, knocking the ball out of Coppa's stick and scooping it.

"I think we were just realizing that we needed to get the draw or we will not be able to score," Tumolo said. "So they were going up the field and I saw the girl. I ran my [butt] off to get to her and I checked her and we got the ball. It was kind of the play that we needed."

After a Murray shot rang off the crossbar, SU midfielder Bridget Daley found Tumolo. Wrapping around the left side of the cage, she spun inside UNC defender Sloane Serpe and beat Maksym falling on the right doorstep with 2:24 left.

After Daley won the draw, Tumolo wrapped around left again roughly two minutes later. But this time, as Serpe and Cannizzaro collapsed, she lofted a pass over the crease to Kempney, who bounced the close-range attempt into the net to tie the score at 16 with 39 seconds to go.

"Coming from Michelle, I wouldn't have wanted anyone else to pass it," Kempney said. "It was for the team. You've got to put all that pressure on yourself like it's a do or die right there, so coming from Michelle, I couldn't let her down."

But with just 39 seconds left, Tumolo's masterpiece was not quite completed.

Kempney won the ensuing draw over Tewaaraton Award finalist Becky Lynch and set up Tumolo on the right side.

With her teammates cleared out, Tumolo drove right on Coppa. Turning back toward the middle, eight yards out, she flung a bounce shot by Maksym's right knee.

Tumolo raised her stick up in her right hand and slammed it down before Daley jumped into her arms in celebration.

"[It was] literally the best feeling in the world because I've never really won a game like that or ever been the big winner," Tumolo said. "I've never won a game like that ever in my life so it was just the best feeling I've ever had. I've really never felt this in my life."

"It was amazing just looking up at my parents and they were crying. I was so happy."

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