With just over six minutes remaining in its NCAA tournament quarterfinal contest with Stony Brook on Saturday, the unbeaten Maryland women's lacrosse team was on its heels.
Trailing the Seawolves, 12-11, the Terps looked on as Stony Brook midfielder Samantha DiSalvo whizzed a shot wide of goalkeeper Megan Taylor with two seconds remaining on the 90-second shot clock. The referee twirled her finger in the air to signal a reset and gift Stony Brook another full possession, claiming Taylor had deflected it wide.
The Terps' goalie stood with her arms extended, pleading she hadn't touched the ball. Coach Cathy Reese bellowed the same sentiment from the sideline as the officials deliberated and agreed to restore the two seconds, forcing the Seawolves to surrender possession.
"We missed a wide open shot that may have iced the game," Stony Brook coach Joe Spallina said. "Then there were only two seconds on the clock with no explanation, which was very interesting."
The controversial moment proved pivotal in the Terps' comeback as they turned the following two offensive trips into scores and took their first lead. It was the only advantage the Terps had all contest and the only one they needed as they topped the Seawolves, 13-12, in College Park to advance to the NCAA tournament semifinals.
Maryland could hardly piece together momentum until that point, but following the sequence, energy and excitement mounted. For the first time all contest, the No. 1-seed Terps looked like they could rally to victory.
The Terps (21-0) trailed by four twice in the game—5-1 in the first half and 11-7 in the second. Their largest deficit all season had been three goals prior to Saturday.
After the Terps were granted the ball following the violation, Stony Brook (20-2) dumped the ball out of bounds in the corner and placed two players in Maryland defender Julia Braig's face as she heaved the ball toward midfield.
Among four or five bodies leaping for the 50-50 ball, midfielder Zoe Stukenberg caught it and turned to push the Terps forward. After a couple of shots, attacker Caroline Steele reeled in a pass from attacker Taylor Hensh on a free position and slipped a shot by Seawolves goalkeeper Anna Tesoriero to level the contest at 12.
From there, the Terps gained steam. The players celebrated goals with more vigor than ever before this season and the crowd's exhilaration willed them toward the final goal they needed.
"There were times where we started to come back in the second half where it just felt electric," Reese said. "That vibe was something that our players could feed off of."
About one minute later, Hensh cut across the face of goal and Stukenberg fed the junior as she flashed the ball by Tesoriero. Hensh's effort was the winner as Steele corralled the ensuing draw, sending the crowd into yet another frenzy.
With over two minutes remaining, the Terps had to shoot before 90 seconds expired. Midfielder Jen Giles fired an attempt with 1:06 left and Tesoriero stopped it, giving the Seawolves an opportunity to equalize if they could pick up the loose ball.
However, Steele was first to the rebound, catching the ball off a bounce and turning away to safety. With the shot clock turned off, the Terps cycled the ball until the final buzzer sounded, cementing their ninth straight final four appearance, which will take place in Foxborough, Massachusetts, next weekend.
"We didn't perform our absolute best," Stukenberg said. "But we got to see that everyone believes in us and we can do this."