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New London - Tears flowed in the locker room after Connecticut College came within inches of winning the program's first NCAA Division III men's lacrosse tournament game on Wednesday.
Minutes after junior John Lyons fired a hard shot off the left post, Western New England University's Corbett Corrigan Harreys scored the game-winning goal with 51 seconds left in the second sudden-death overtime at Silfen Field.
"It's just terrible, especially to lose in overtime like that," senior goalie Rob Moccia said of the 6-5 first-round loss. "We were right there and we had it. We worked so hard all year. It's tough."
The emotional postgame scene had more to do with the team spending its last game together than a difficult defeat.
The Camels clearly made a statement by earning their second NCAA bid in three seasons.
"I wouldn't say it was a tough one," coach Dave Cornell said. "To be honest with you, I'm so proud of the seniors. What they've done is they've built a program here. I wouldn't trade that for anything.
"... The guys are in there crying their eyes out because they love each other. And it's not because they lost. It's because they're never going to be in the locker room with each other again."
The Camels (10-7) stamped a memorable ending on their season. They patiently stuck to their game plan and played stellar zone defense, with Moccia making eight saves.
They showed heart by battling back from a 4-2 deficit in the third quarter, scoring three straight goals. Lyons, the team scoring leader, connected twice and junior Andrew Freedman's goal off an assist from junior Tyler Corcoran put the Camels ahead, 5-4, with 25 seconds left in the quarter.
Western New England's Patrick White, a threat every time he touched the ball, scored his third goal of the game to tie the score with 6:25 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The goal set up a tense and dramatic finish.
Conn, which had the overall edge in possession, had one last chance near the end of regulation to break the tie but couldn't produce a quality shot.
Lyons had the best opportunities in overtime. He weaved through traffic and fired a one-hopper that goalie Brewster Knowlton smartly saved in the first overtime.
In the second overtime, senior Chuck Czerkawski won the key opening face-off. Corcoran found Lyons whose shot bounced off the left post.
"You hear the pipe and your heart drops," Lyons said.
Western New England gained possession and called timeout with 2:25 left. Corrigan Harreys found some space at the top of the crease and beat Moccia through a crowd for the game-winner.
"I shot it underhand and he really couldn't see where I was coming from with the ball," said Corrigan Harreys who sprinted down field after scoring.
Moccia was screened on the play.
"They made a good play," Moccia said. "He released it quick and I just barely missed it."
Western New England (13-4) advances to play at Rochester Institute of Technology.
Senior Drew Green and freshman Briggs Barton also scored for the Camels.
Conn walked away with a nice consolation prize - a firm foundation for the future.
"We showed some fight," Lyons said. "No one believed in us in this tournament. I think the score speaks for itself. We had every right being here.
"In the end, it just didn't go our way. Someone had to lose."