BOULDER – As the horn was sounding the end of the overtime period, Sarah Lautman hammered one into the net to give the University of Colorado lacrosse team the 12-11 victory and hand USC its first conference defeat of the season.
The Buffaloes and Women of Troy were tied eight times, with USC grabbing a three-goal lead on two separate occasions. Colorado scored four of the final five goals of regulation, and Cali Castagnola tied the game at 10-10 with 2:29 remaining. The tie would hold at the end of 60 minutes, sending the game into overtime (which consists of two three-minute periods and an extra six minute sudden victory period if the game remains tied).
As the first three minutes of overtime were winding down, Castagnola powered through once more, scoring off a Marie Moore assist 18 seconds before the teams switched sides. USC looked to force a sudden victory after tying the game back up off a free position shot in the final 42 seconds.
But as they've shown all season, the Buffs thrive in late game situations. With the last seconds ticking away, Castagnola shot from the left, forcing a diving save from USC keeper Liz Shaeffer. Despite coming up with the solid save, the low shot got back on the ground, and Lautman capitalized on the bounce. One second remained on the board as she forced the game-winner in from just right of the crease.
“I really just saw the ball on the ground and all you can do at that point is pick it up,” Lautman said. “I saw the [USC] goalie wasn't in the net and I just tried to get it in, and it went in. It was totally just a reaction, Cali did the right thing by taking that shot and we got the rebound. When you see a rebound, you want to get it; you want to get that goal.”
The win is the biggest of CU's inaugural season. In their first ever taste of overtime play, the Buffs got their fourth Mountain Pacific Sports Federation win and ended USC”s four-game winning streak, giving the Women of Troy their first loss in conference play. The Buffs improve to 7-6 overall, 4-2 MPSF as CU head coach Ann Elliott gets her first win over a former teammate. After facing two Northwestern alumni in the Buffs' losses to then-No. 9 Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Elliott and the Buffs take down her former teammate and NU coaching staff companion Lindsey Munday.
After four consecutive conference wins, the second-year Women of Troy see their perfect conference run end at the hands of the inaugural Colorado squad. USC, who entered the game tying for the second-best overall record in the MPSF, slip to 7-5, 5-1.
“USC is a very good team, they are well-coached and for us to come out here and compete and have that excitement about us is a big win for us,” Elliott said. “Every conference game is so important at this point, we're lucky we have a couple of them at home.”
The game was even in nearly every way. The teams each took 28 shots and won 10 draw controls. Through CU had more turnovers (21 to 17) and fouls (25 to 18), the Buffs grabbed the upper-hand on ground balls, 23-18. CU had 12 successful clears out of 15 attempts, while USC went 11 of 16. USC got to the 8-meter twice as many times as CU, but only netted two more free position goals (five to three), though the Trojans went one for one in overtime play.
“In a way, I think close games are more fun because you have to have that as a team, and you have to have that will to pick up that ground ball,” Lautman said. “As a team, I think we really handled the pressure well and we stepped up for the challenge. It definitely shows with the win.”
Four different Buffs scored, with each netting at least two goals apiece. Johnna Fusco led the team with five points, while Lautman and Katie Macleay each had a hat trick. Castagnola had two goals, with each serving an integral part of CU's final push for victory. Goalie Paige Soenksen, the reigning MPSF Rookie of the Week, had 15 saves and three ground balls.
USC spread the offense between six players, with Alex Moore leading the way with four points off three goals and an assist. Between the pipes, Liz Shaeffer stopped the ball 13 times.
Colorado dominated nearly the first three minutes of the game, winning the draw and forcing two saves out of Shaeffer. Despite being a man-down, Fusco helped give the Buffs the lead less than five minutes into the game. Less than four minutes later, USC got the ball off a CU turnover and got back-to-back free position shots, with Amanda Johansen evening the score on the second.
The teams fought back and forth for the remainder of the first half. When CU scored, USC responded with back-to-back goals. When the Trojans scored two straight, so did the Buffs. When the Buffs grabbed the lead, the Trojans got it back. The fighting would end in a one goal USC lead at the break.
At 18:42, Macleay gave the Buffs their second lead, but USC battled back with two more, with Annie Rutland adding an assist and then scoring a goal. CU got two of its own in less than two minutes as Lautman scored off an FPS and Fusco went unassisted. USC once again had a leader in a 2-0 mini run, with Alex Moore giving an assist and goal to put her Trojans up 5-4 with 5:06 left before halftime.
In the final 14 seconds of the first half, Fusco went unassisted for the second time to tie things back up, but in a sign of things to come, Caroline de Lyra netted one in the final second of the opening period to put USC up 6-5.
USC came out strong to start the second half. Katie Pederson won the half's opening draw, and de Lyra forced Soenksen's first save of the second half. The Buffs failed on their clear attempt, with a turnover costing them as Alex Moore grabbed a ground ball and shot into an empty net.
The Women of Troy continued their stronghold, with Johnasen helping the team to a three-goal lead less than two minutes into the second half. Colorado quickly found its response, with Macleay helping the Buffs get back within two at 27:30.
After a nearly 11 minute scoring draught that saw seven combined turnovers, USC once again prevailed to a three-goal lead, with Kaila Sommi scoring from the 8-meter. As they did before, the Buffs wasted no time getting back to form as Fusco connected with Macleay.
It would take another 10 minutes, but CU would continue to score, netting two more in less than two minutes, with goals by Fusco and Lautman to tie things up, pushing the game to a 9-9 draw.
“It was big,” Elliott said of coming back from the three-goal deficit. “In all honestly, we haven't played in a lot of close games like this, and to see our kids come out fighting and have that never give up mentality and really continue to believe in themselves even when we made some mistakes was a really positive thing for us.”
That never give up mentality was important down the stretch. USC grabbed a 10-9 lead as de Lyra went unassisted in the final 6:14 of regulation. The Trojans got the ensuing draw, but turned the ball over. CU successfully cleared the ball, but Marie Moore got a yellow card with 3:22 on the clock. The Buffs found themselves in a tricky position. They needed to even the score with just 10 field players on their side.
“Any time you're playing a man-down it's difficult,” Elliott said. “And to play a man-down against a good team is difficult, but they came out and pressured us and I thought we did a good job of having composure. We practice it a lot in practice and we we're able to execute in that situation.”
Execute they did. Thankfully for the Buffs, despite the foul, they came away with the ball. After Lautman scooped up a ground ball, Amanda Salvadore made Shaeffer grab a save. Amelia Brown tracked the ball down, and Castagnola tied things up to force extra minutes.
“We really started to pick it up at the end of the second half and into that overtime we had a little more of an intensity about us,” Elliott said. “They never give up on any play, and that really was what happened. They had a save by USC and we were able to come up with the ground ball and have enough composure to put it on goal.”
The teams entered the first of two three-minute overtime periods. The Buffs won the key draw, taking their time to wind down the clock and find the right shots. As she did to close regulation, Castagnola was again strong on the attack, scoring 18 seconds before the side change. USC didn't want to waste any time, forcing Soenksen to get back-to-back saves in the last three seconds.
The teams switched sides for what the Buffs hoped would be the final three minutes of the game. Once again, CU won the draw, but two CU turnovers helped USC even the score. Setting up for a free-position shot (and finding the back of the net), USC was fouled again. A few seconds ticked off the clock, but the outcome was the same, with Alex Moore scoring from the 8-meter with 42 second remaining to tie things up for the eighth time.
USC worked to push things into the sudden victory period, with Elizabeth Eddy winning the draw. With just 21 second left, Alex Moore turned the ball over, and Amanda Salvadore scooped the ball up from the ground. USC grabbed two fouls 14 seconds apart, continuing to press the CU attack.
Just three seconds remained, as Castagnola let the ball loose from her crosse in a last ditch effort to grab the final lead.
“It was a very tense moment, but very exciting,” Castagnola said. “The last three seconds there were a lot of hard decisions to make but it was a great pickup by my teammate. I didn't have enough time to process what had happened, next thing I know I just saw the ball in the goal.”
Shaeffer and the Trojans also didn't have much time to process, with Lautman finding the back of the net as the final horn sounded.
“Definitely some nerves,” Lautman said, “I was waiting and I was just thinking, 'Is it the goal? Is it the goal?' But when you get something like that you really just want to celebrate it.”
The Buffs celebrated, and the game was decided. Colorado had pulled off the upset.
CU continues its four-game home stand against the San Diego State Aztecs at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 13. To celebrate Youth Lacrosse Day, players in the eighth grade and younger are invited to a post-game skills and drills clinic.