York College freshman Meghan Fox has scored her fair share of meaningful goals for the Spartans this season.
She's bound to score even more over the next three years with the program.
For now, however, one will stand out above the rest.
With Sunday's NCAA Division III women's lacrosse tournament second-round home game against St. John Fisher College tied with less than three minutes to go, York gained possession and held the ball. And held it. And held it some more. Finally, after winding the clock down inside of 30 seconds, York looked to score. After a series of passes, the ball found Fox's stick. She quickly turned and fired high on Cardinals' goalie Morgan Hayes, beating her with 20.5 seconds to play to give the Spartans a 5-4 lead. That lead would hold up, advancing the Spartans to next weekend's third round. The goal was her second of the game and 37th of the season.
"I'm just so lucky that it went in," Fox said. "That was probably one of the most nerve-wracking shots that I've had to take."
York (15-3), ranked No. 11 in NCAA D-III, never trailed in the contest, but the Spartans still had to feel fortunate just to be in the game late.
York had its fair share of chances, but compared to the time of possession and shots created by No. 18 St. John Fisher, it didn't seem like it. When the Cardinals (15-5) gained possession, they would hold for minutes on end, generating shot after shot toward the Spartan cage, testing junior goalie Charlotte Wright all afternoon. Fortunately, the York goalie had perhaps her best game in her college career, coming up with save after save to finish with 14, and frustrating the St. John Fisher attack.
"Our coach always says to back each other up," Wright said. "So, if one person makes a mistake, someone has to step up and back them up. So, I figured today, the offense wasn't on its game, so I can't take the credit myself. The defense helped a lot with the low angles they made, and if I made the save, they would back me up by getting the ball, so it's all about backing each other up."
After receiving a bye in the first round of the tournament, the Spartans spent the past week preparing for two potential opponents — the Cardinals and Morrisville State. They had to wait until Saturday to find out who their exact opponent would be, creating a bit of a game-planning issue. However, it didn't seem to affect York one bit at the beginning. York came out firing, scoring twice in the first three minutes to build a 2-0 lead. The Spartans then relied heavily on their defense and Wright to weather the ensuing push by St. John Fisher.
The Cardinals quickly settled into their methodical approach, eating away clock, before scoring twice in a span of 2 1/2 minutes to level the score at 2-2. Even with the slow-it-down tactic on offense, the York defense held strong throughout the contest.
"It is difficult because the longer you have to play defense, the more opportunity there is for something to slip up," Spartans' head coach Jen Muston said. "Somebody misses a cutter or somebody falls asleep for a second, so it's difficult, but I thought today that wasn't really the case. They were showing me they could last through long possessions and still make a stop, so that's why we decided to stay back and not pressure out."
Melissa Meehling netted her second goal of the first half just before going to break to give York a 3-2 edge at halftime. The Spartans came out to begin the second half and again built a two-goal advantage with a goal by Caitlin Rankin, before St. John Fisher again erased a two-goal deficit, leading to the dramatic finish.
York will now face No. 4 Messiah College (16-2) on Saturday at a time and location to be determined. The winner of that game will advance to the quarterfinals next Sunday against the winner of No. 10 Trinity (Connecticut) vs. No. 5 Franklin & Marshall.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com.