VILLANOVA, Pa. — North Carolinas long wait to reach the top of the womens lacrosse world is finally over.
Freshman Sammy Jo Tracy scored a transition goal with 2 minutes, 29 seconds left in the third overtime period as the third-seeded Tar Heels defeated top-seeded Maryland 13-12 in the longest championship game in NCAA tournament history.
Senior midfielder Kara Cannizzaro had four goals and two assists and freshman goalie Megan Ward made six saves as North Carolina handed the Terrapins their first loss of the season in front of 9,391 at Villanova Stadium.
Cannizzaro was named the tournaments most outstanding player.
It is the first national title for North Carolina (18-3), which broke through for a championship in the programs eighth trip to the semifinals in its 18-year history.
Taylor Cummings and Katie Schwarzmann scored three goals each for the top-seeded Terrapins (22-1), who were denied their 11th NCAA title.
The lengthy game, which surpassed Marylands three-overtime defeat of Georgetown in 2001 as the longest title game in tournament history, at times seemed like it would never end.
Instead, it finished in memorable fashion for the Tar Heels and coach Jenny Levy, who has led the program since its inception.
After Ward stuffed Marylands Brooke Griffin 14 seconds into the fourth overtime, the Tar Heels quickly got it upfield. Brittney Coppa eventually found Tracy, who beat Maryland goalie Kasey Howard for the winner.
The Tar Heels were especially efficient early on, scoring on their first seven shots. In the process, Cannizzaro set the school record for points in a season and completed the year with 83 points (61 goals and 22 assists).
She wasnt done. Cannizzaro, a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award, scored back-to-back goals, including on a free position shot with nine minutes left, to give the Tar Heels a 12-11 lead.
Marylands Alex Aust tied it again with 3:51 to go, sticking a shot past Tar Heels goalie Ward. The Terps controlled possession for three minutes to set up for the final shot, but Sarah Scott forced Schwarzmann into a turnover in the closing seconds to send it to overtime.
The Tar Heels nearly took the lead seconds into overtime. Coppa collected the draw control and had a look in transition, but Howard made only her second save of the night. The Terps then milked the clock and earned a free position shot, only for Ward to deny Beth Glaros with 35 seconds left in the opening half of the first overtime.
Much of that sequence would repeat after the teams switched sides. The Terps held the ball almost the entire three minutes, only for Ward to stop Glaros with four seconds remaining to send the game to sudden death. Once there, Howard made two saves against the Tar Heels in the second overtime to prolong matters.
However, it wasnt much longer before North Carolina stormed the field to celebrate a moment it long dreamed of enjoying.