Sometimes you need to be lucky to be good.
After 60 minutes of lacrosse, there isn’t always a winner and a loser. The two competitors cannot be separated by four quarters. There is only one way to resolve this deadlock, overtime. In the sudden-victory style of lacrosse, there is no room for mistakes. A bad outlet pass could result in jubilant celebrations for the opposition. This format can also make any player on the field a hero. A defensive middie who causes a turnover can get the recognition that has so often eluded him. Overtime is when memories that last a lifetime are made; a split second can be the difference between fond recollection and a haunting “what-if”.
Take the 2016 NCAA D1 national championship. Maryland and North Carolina had battled back and forth the entire game. Towards the end of regulation, with the score tied, Luke Goldstock took a none-headed penalty and gave Maryland the ball and a man-up opportunity to start overtime. If Maryland scores, Goldstock’s penalty goes down as one of the most infamous plays in college lacrosse history. Instead, Carolina gets a big save from Brian Balkam and the ball back. After burning the penalty, Chris Cloutier, the hero of the tournament for UNC, got an open opportunity on the crease. After what seemed like twenty stick fakes, Cloutier went to dump the ball into the empty net and seal the title for North Carolina. That is when Kyle Bernlohr pulled off one of the most incredible saves in recent memory, reaching behind him to stop the ball on the goal-line. In the ensuing scrum, Michael McCarney made sure Luke Goldstock’s earlier cheap shot didn’t go unpunished. The flag flew and UNC got the ball back along with a man-up. This time Cloutier made no mistake; he buried the ball I the back of the net and UNC were national champions.
That game saw so many different players go from villains to heroes and vice-versa in a matter of minutes. What was possibly going to be remembered as the greatest save of all-time is now just a footnote. The penalty taken by Goldstock is all but forgotten.
That is how slim the margins of overtime are. There is almost nothing to separate two equally matched teams until one moment makes the world of a difference. The teams’ records do not show just how close the game truly is. There is only a ‘W’ or an ‘L’. Overtime is something that can only be appreciated by those who have lived it.
I played in two OT games in my college career; I was lucky enough to have them both end in wins. However, the personal role I played in each of these games could not have been any different.
My Freshmen year, we were stuck in a deadlock against a conference opponent we hadn’t beaten in almost a decade. After a few missed chances our offense had run out of drawn-up plays. We were now essentially taking turns dodging on the short-stick midfielders. Eventually, the ball made its way to me; I dodged down the alley and rolled back to the center of the field. Seeing my opportunity, I went to fire a shot on net. At the very last moment, I felt the head of a stick lift my back hand and I produced one of the slowest shots I’ve ever taken. Luckily the shot was so slow that the goalie didn’t track it as it bounced off the turf and slowly nestled into the top corner. Game over. Somehow, after putting an absolute muffin of a shot on net, I was the hero. As I was being mobbed by my teammates, I thought to myself how lucky I was.
Fast forward to my senior year. My team was in another overtime battle. This time we had come back from being down 6-0 to tie the game and force OT. After a slash on the opposing defense, I jogged onto the field knowing I was about to get an open shot on net. As I passed a teammate of mine, I let him know exactly how the game was about to end, “Watch me win this game”. Just as I had predicted the man-up play gave me a hands-free shot from about ten yards. I knew that I was going to go top corner and I saw the ball fly past the goalie’s stick, and then over the bar and out of bounds. The worst part is we didn’t even back up the shot, so now I had to scramble to get off the field and hope my defense would bail me out. After two more overtimes of me praying the opposition wouldn’t make me look like more of a fool than I already was, one of our freshmen got himself open on the crease and made no mistake as he completed our comeback and was swarmed by our team. I made sure I found my way to him in the pile to thank him offer him food for saving our team, and myself.
I’ve experienced the joy of ending games and the stress of thinking I blew one. Overtime evokes some feelings that nothing else in sports can. One move, decision, or mistake will affect the outcome of the game. There will be good moments, bad moments, moments that live on forever, and moments that want to be forgotten. However, there is nothing like playing with everything on the line.