May 13, 2011

Dowling's One-More Mantra Provides Hope

by Mark Macyk |

Brook Witkowski and the Dowling women's lacrosse team meet Le Moyne in an NCAA Division II quarterfinal Saturday.

There always seems to be one more game. If the 1980 US hockey team doesn't come back and beat Finland after the Miracle on Ice, the Americans don't even win a medal. If the 1986 Mets fail to win game seven, Bill Buckner would be known for his 2,715 career hits.

Last Sunday, the Dowling women's lacrosse team had to win that one more game.

Saturday was intense. The biggest game in the young program's history. Dowling rallied from a three-goal second half deficit to force overtime, came from behind in overtime to force sudden death and finally took down C.W. Post, for the first time ever, 15-14 when Kelly Cefalu scored 40 seconds into the third overtime.

"The whole game was heart-pounding," said Dowling coach Kerri McCabe. "They just wanted it so bad. They never gave up."

But Dowling couldn't rest on its laurels. The win gave the Golden Lions a share of the ECC title, but to ensure the outright championship, an undefeated conference season and a guaranteed trip to the NCAA tournament, Dowling needed to beat Seton Hill on Sunday.

"When we were done it was like 'OK, we just did this. It's monumental, but we have a game to get ready for,'" McCabe said. "Understand we're in a must-win situation. They're not going to hand us the game. They could spoil our fun. We can't let down."

Dowling didn't leave any chance for drama Sunday, scoring the first three goals and turning a 12-point halftime lead into an 18-6 victory.

Saturday was not so simple.

Hanging on to slim postseason hopes, C.W. Post played like a team that had never lost to Dowling, taking an 8-7 lead into halftime and holding a 12-9 advantage with 22:46 remaining. After Brianna Falese and Cassandra Cronin scored to put Dowling within one, Post's Lauren Spagnoletta fed Abigail Ross to put the Pioneers back up two with 18 minutes remaining. Nicole Moran cut the lead to one three minutes later, and the score stayed the way until Cronin fed Moran for the equalizer with just under three minutes remaining in regulation.

Ross put Post up one with her fourth goal of the game with one minute remaining in the first overtime. But Dowling struck back again, as Moran scored with 34 seconds remaining in the second OT.

"We tied it and everyone realized this is the moment," McCabe said. "One minute left. Where is this team gonna go?"

Forty seconds into the sudden death period, Moran fed a cutting Cefalu, who lost the ball, picked it up, spun to her left and put it past the goalie for the game winner.

It was Cefalu's only goal of the game. Moran led all players with seven goals. Cronin had three goals and two assists, and Spagnoletta had four goals and two assists for Post. Dowling's Rachael Goldstein made 11 saves. Post's Dominique Mosca had 15.

Now after beating Seton Hill, Dowling again has one more game. The Golden Lions would like to make it two. Would love to make it three. They host Le Moyne on Saturday in an NCAA quarterfinal. If they win, they'll take on Adelphi in the North region final. Win that and their in the NCAA championship game.

Dowling lost to Adelphi on March 27, then rattled off 12 straight wins. McCabe said the Golden Lions became a different team.

Of course, the team isn't looking that far ahead. For Dowling, there's always only one more game.

"We had our two losses and in Division II women's lacrosse, that's all you can have," McCabe said. "It just got exciting from there. Understand we have to get there together, one game at a time. Everyone was glowing, but now we've gotta play Le Moyne. One game at a time. This week is about Le Moyne."

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