Junior Olivia Hudson (Adams, NY/South Jefferson) had never scored a game-winning goal in her lacrosse career. Until Sunday's North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) women's lacrosse championship game.
Hudson scored an unassisted goal with 27 seconds left to spark the Keuka College women's lacrosse team to a second straight NEAC championship with a come-from-behind, 12-11 triumph over Morrisville State at Penn Yan Academy.
Hudson, who primarily plays defense and midfield, took the ball from behind the Morrisville State goal, beat her defender and fired a shot towards the far portion of the goal to cap the comeback and send the top-seeded Storm (16-2) back into the NCAA Division III tournament for the second straight season.
Keuka College, which made the program's first NCAA appearance in 2013, extended its win streak to 22 games against NEAC opponents.
The Storm, who rallied from a 7-3 first-half deficit to win the NEAC title, will play a first-round NCAA game Wednesday at a time and site to be determined.
"I honestly just went with it. I got a step on the girl guarding me, and I have played some attack in the past, so it wasn't a totally different experience for me," Hudson said of her first-career game-winning goal.
"But I knew we needed the goal, so I got a step on her, went for it and thankfully it went in. I shot with my left hand, too, so it was a bit nerve-wracking, but thankfully it worked. This is definitely the top goal of my lacrosse career and we're all so thankful that we could win the NEAC title again."
Hudson finished with 2 goals, collected 7 groundballs and caused 5 turnovers while senior Taylor Smith (Webster, NY/Webster Schroeder) scored 3 goals, handed out 2 assists, had 9 groundballs, won 8 draw controls and caused 4 turnovers in the win.
Junior Kaycee Maguire (Potsdam, NY/Potsdam) added two goals with one assist, senior Maggie Bonafede (Churchville, NY/Churchville-Chili) had two goals and freshman Morgan Bruno (Seneca Falls, NY/Mynderse) added one goal with two assists as the Storm rallied to win the NEAC championship.
After scoring 9 points (five goals with four assists) while collecting 7 groundballs, winning 6 draw controls and causing 5 turnovers, Maguire earned the NEAC's Tournament MVP honors.
"Our intensity was great today," Maguire said. "We had the heart to come out and fight, and we gave it everything we had. We all wanted to go back to the NCAA tournament like we did last year, and none of us wanted this to be the last game that we played together as a team. We had that heart and intensity necessary to win a big game and it feels great to be going back to the NCAA tournament."
Junior Jennifer Burt (Penn Yan, NY/Penn Yan) staked the Storm to a 1-0 lead on a feed from Bruno just 43 seconds into the game.
Second-seeded Morrisville scored twice in a span of 1:37 to take a 2-1 lead before Bruno found senior Caroline Arancio (Clinton, NY/Clinton) for the equalizer three minutes in.
The Mustangs answered by scoring five of the next six goals, led by Kolleen Brown's four goals, as the Mustangs led 7-3 with 14:36 remaining in the opening half.
The Storm clawed within 7-5 on free-position goals from Hudson and Smith, and the Green and Gold went to halftime down by two, the first time the Storm trailed at halftime since a 12-7 loss at Adrian (Mich.) College March 28.
Shelby Wood (three goals, three assists) extended the Morrisville State lead to 8-5 on a free-position shot 4:15 into the second half before a quick-strike Keuka attack scored three goals in 1:04 to pull even at 8-all.
Smith scored a free-position goal, Bonafede added an unassisted goal and Smith fed Maguire to knot the score at 8 with 24:13 remaining.
Morrisville State scored three of the next four goals to take an 11-9 lead with 12:46 remaining before Maguire scored an unassisted goal and Bruno netted the tying tally off a feed from Maguire with 8:08 to play.
On the tying goal, Maguire seemed determined to shoot on goal, but as she was approaching the cage, she lofted a pass to Bruno, who converted from the front of the circle.
Neither team scored again until Hudson's late-game heroics. The Storm lost the ensuing draw control but forced a turnover and were able to hold off the Mustangs for the title.
"We knew we could win, but we also knew Morrisville would play a really physical and aggressive game. So we just focused in the second half and everyone did one thing better," Hudson said. "Morrisville had an answer everytime we started to get something going, but those are the fun games to play. We kept coming back with answers anytime they scored. Everyone played their hearts out."
Fitzgerald, who recorded her third game with nine or more saves, made several point-blank stops in the second half. She stone-walled Morrisville State's Hunter Waldeau on a free-position attempt with 20 minutes to go, and she denied Cassie Edmondson on the free-position with 4:25 remaining to keep the score tied.
"Playing in big games gives me more fire to step up and try to make more big saves for my team," Fitzgerald said. "I try to pump up the defense and get us all to work together as a team. Our communication on defense got much better in the second half today. You have to be able to communicate and talk and tell everybody where the cutters are, and that's the most important thing we adjusted after halftime and it clearly helped us win."