May 25, 2012

Illegal Stick Looms Large in Florida Loss

by Brian Logue |

NCAA Division I Women's Lacrosse Semifinals

Epic Comeback Sends Syracuse to NCAA Final | Illegal Stick Looms Large
Northwestern Advances to Eighth Straight Final | Live Blog Replay 

Officials Lynn Bowers (left) and Jenn O'Donnell examine the stick of Florida junior attacker Gabi Wiegand after her apparent go-ahead goal late in overtime. The pocket was ruled too deep and the goal was overturned. Syracuse eventually won on senior midfielder Sarah Holden's goal in double overtime to advance to the NCAA championship game.

© Lee Weissman

STONY BROOK, N.Y. – Alyssa Murray has scored 73 goals for Syracuse this season, but she found a way to make a different kind of impact in Syracuse's dramatic 14-13 double overtime victory over Florida in the NCAA Division I women's lacrosse semifinals Friday.

The top-seeded Gators had let a seven-goal second-half lead slip away, but looked like they would redeem themselves as junior Gabi Wiegand scored with just nine seconds to play in overtime to give Florida an apparent 14-13 lead. As the Gators' offensive players celebrated just a few feet away from her, Murray frantically sprinted towards the officials to call for a stick check.

"I just ran over to the ref a little crazed," said Murray, a sophomore who had three goals in the victory. "Anybody on the field can do that. We were fighting for our life and it was something you have to do."

The pocket on Wiegand's stick was ruled too deep and the goal was disallowed, forcing the game into sudden victory, where Syracuse completed its remarkable comeback on a goal by Sarah Holden just 58 seconds into the period. The Orange had a few anxious moments, as the officials checked Holden's stick, but it was legal, sending the Orange to the NCAA championship game for the first time in program history.

"You're always conscious of it," said Syracuse coach Gary Gait, who noted that Florida had called for a stick check during the team's regular season meeting on March 3, a 12-11 Syracuse overtime victory. "It's a good thing our sticks were legal. Obviously, it was a crucial error on their part not to make sure their sticks were legal."

The loss ended Florida's impressive run in the NCAA tournament in just its third season with a varsity program.

"It was just a really, really smart call by Syracuse," said Florida coach Mandee O'Leary. "Unfortunately we lost the goal, and lost possession. Stick checks are a part of the game and there's not much you can do about it."

"I've been involved in a lot of championships and sometimes it takes a little bit of divine intervention, a little luck," said Gait, who led the Syracuse men's team to three national titles as a player, and the Maryland women's team to seven NCAA titles as an assistant coach. "We thought it was over and Alyssa Murray makes a good call on a stick check. We didn't give up. We fought to the very end."

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