After 11 minutes of overtime, a jubilant Taylor Brown raised her hands into the air and ran from the front of Lafayette’s goal toward midfield. Seventeen teammates surrounded her in a giant mob-hug that became a giant dogpile. Goaltender Jen McGill ran 70 yards in full padding to join the celebration.
And oh, was it worth celebrating.
With Brown’s overtime goal, the Bobcats defeated the Leopards to advance to the main draw of the NCAA field-hockey tournament for the first time since 2007.
Brown navigated around two Lafayette defenders and slid the puck under goalie Jessica Deutsch as she tumbled to the ground.
But Brown has little recollection of the biggest goal of her career.
“I kind of blacked out,” she said. “I forget what happened, but I just did what I could to get it past the goalie.”
With the win, Ohio earned a spot in field hockey’s Sweet 16. The Bobcats likely will travel for their next game this weekend. Coach Neil Macmillan speculated that his squad might visit North Carolina.
“I’ve been doing this long enough that I know your best guesses are usually wrong,” he said. “The NCAA says you have to drive within 400 miles if you’re within a site, so they try to keep it down to as few flights as possible.
“It really doesn’t matter. We’ll be ready for whoever they put us up against.”
For the second time in as many games, Ohio trailed in the first half before knotting up the contest and winning it in overtime. Brown scored the tying goal against Kent State in the Mid-American Conference Championship game and repeated the feat in the second half of yesterday’s match.
The win marked the third consecutive game Ohio won by a single goal in the face of having a stellar season come to a screeching halt.
“This is the best time of year for that,” Macmillan said. “I love the pressure. It’s either get it done or go home.”
Lafayette opened the game with an up-tempo attack that led to scoring chances early. Deanna DiCroce buried the Leopards’ only goal in the 24th minute on a deflected shot that McGill had little chance of stopping.
Lafayette’s 1-0 lead stayed intact heading into the second half, but the momentum slowly shifted to Ohio. After recording no official shots on goal in the first half, the Bobcats put seven shots on target in the second half and overtime.
After Brown scored her first goal off a second-half corner, Lafayette called a timeout. The team had been slowing throughout the game, and all of a sudden playing conservatively was not a valid strategy.
“They were gassed. They needed a break,” Macmillan said. “I wasn’t going to take our timeout because I just wanted to keep piling on the pressure, and for that last 17 minutes we were down in their end.”
Jessica Jue picked up a yellow card in overtime, but the Bobcats did not yield a shot during her five minutes on the bench. The Bobcats showed more energy with the open field created by the six-on-six overtime format.
“We just kept on throwing one person after another at them,” Macmillan said. “They just broke down at the end.”