The biggest goal in program history won’t officially count as a goal.
The biggest win in program history will go into the record books as a tie.
Savannah Johnson is quite fine with that. The Duhawks are headed to the Final Four.
Johnson scored the clinching goal in the fifth round of a penalty kick shootout, and NCAA Division III No. 9-ranked Loras outlasted UW-La Crosse in the fourth round of the NCAA D-III tournament on Sunday at the Rock Bowl.
“Just to turn around and see all your teammates running at you, that was the best thing,” Johnson said. “These girls, they’re my best friends, they’re my roommates, they get me through everything. Just to be able to celebrate with them is an amazing feeling.”
The match officially goes into the record books as a 2-2 draw. Payton McDonnell, Brynn Jacobi and Hannah Schmitz also scored, and Kyndal Kells had one save as the Duhawks won the shootout, 4-3.
“I didn’t want to end on this field,” Kells said. “I wanted to keep going.”
McDonnell and Emma Casebolt scored go-ahead goals in regulation for Loras, which was making its first-ever appearance in the tournament’s Elite Eight.
Now, the Duhawks can look forward to their first appearance in the Final Four.
Loras (21-0-2) will play No. 5 Christopher Newport (20-0-1) at 10 a.m. on Dec. 3 in Greensbro, N.C. Top-ranked The College of New Jersey (20-0-2) and No. 14 Wesleyan (Conn.) (18-1-2) play in the other national semifinal.
“Motivated,” Loras coach Matt Pucci said when asked how he feels headed to North Carolina. Pucci was a part of four Final Four trips with the men’s program. “This is my fifth time and I’ve come back empty-handed. I want to come back with the whole thing this time.”
McDonnell blasted a free kick from about 30 yards off the hand of Eagles goalkeeper Quinn Shannon and into the net for a 1-0 lead with 14 minutes left in the opening half.
But La Crosse (16-3-4) had an almost immediate answer, drawing even just 1:59 later on Shana Macphail’s second goal of the year.
Casebolt, a freshman defender, put her name in the ring for delivering the biggest goal from the unlikeliest of places. She knocked home a rebound with 19:22 left for her first career goal.
But La Crosse had another answer in the closing minutes as Alexis McMahon poked a loose ball into the net following a mad scramble in front of the Duhawks net with just more than 4 minutes left.
“It was a typical classic battle of the Elite Eight. That’s exactly what it should be,” Pucci said. “I was joking (with the players) going into overtime, what did you think it was going to be easy? That’s what it’s all about. We’re battle-tested, we’ve had a tough road and it really prepared us for these moments. I’m just so proud. I’m proud and I’m just lucky to be a part of it. I’m enjoying the show like the rest of you guys. It’s an awesome ride.”
The stage was set for a dramatic finale.
La Crosse’s Ellie Arndt and McDonnell scored in the first round of the shootout, and Katie Feller and Jacobi made it 2-2 after the second round. Both shooters missed in the third round.
Kells saved a shot from La Crosse’s Jenna Nichols to open the fourth round.
“When she walked up, I could tell that she was going to go that way,” Kells said. “She just kept eyeballing that side when she was walking up there. I didn’t know if it would be out wide or right there. I just had a feeling she was going that way and went with my gut. Thankfully it turned out all right.”
Schmitz knocked hers home to give the Duhawks the advantage. Megan Goodman converted for La Crosse to open the final round, setting the stage for Johnson.
“It was important to remember that there was an entire game in front of it. Obviously that goal is a big part of it, but we all battled for 110 minutes,” Johnson said. “That was the most important thing, just finish this goal and it made it all worth it. All the training since July, the preseason, the season. It was all worth it to put that goal away.”