PHILADELPHIA — A spot in the national championship game for the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils came down to a matter of inches on Saturday afternoon. More specifically, it came down to a foot: Garrett Leadmon’s right shoe.
Leadmon’s goal 65 seconds into overtime lifted the Blue Devils to a thrilling 16-15 overtime victory over the No. 4 seed Penn State Nittany Lions inside Lincoln Financial Field to advance to Monday’s national championship game. Leadmon and Brennan O’ Neill each scored three goals each as Duke will play for the title on Memorial Day for the seventh time in school history.
The final tally of today’s first semifinal came with more than a hint of controversy, as Leadmon’s right foot clearly stepped inside of the crease before his diving shot attempt hit the back of the net and past Nittany Lions goalkeeper Jack Fracyon. After a brief discussion, with hands of Blue Devils’ players raised aloft and Nittany Lions players’ hands pointing toward the crease, the lead official raised his arms to uphold the goal and put an end to proceedings.
“I saw the referee put his hands up in the air, and I figured we won the game, and that’s the end of that,” Leadmon said.
Penn State, whose two wins in the NCAA Tournament both came by a single goal and included a comeback from 7-1 down in the first round against Princeton, played from behind almost the entire game after a 4-0 Duke spanning the first and second quarters game the Blue Devils a 7-4 lead. Attackman TJ Malone led all scorers with six goals, though it was his assist that led to Jake Morin’s goal and tied the game at 13 with 9:35 remaining in the contest. The teams exchanged goals for the next few minutes, and Malone’s final goal with 5:07 left tied the score once again at 15.
“We’ve been playing from behind most of the year, and we were exactly where we wanted to be,” Malone said.
Penn State had an extra man opportunity with 91 seconds remaining in regulation , but did not get a shot on goal during the man up, leading to the 12th overtime game in D1 semifinal history.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday afternoon’s first national semifinal, with photos taken by ALOST photo editor Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 10 pictures in total.