CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- As the Loyola players mobbed each other in celebration, Greyhounds coach Dave Cottle quietly winked at Tim McGeeney, his goalie. Then he kissed McGeeney's mother.
"I couldn't kiss him, so I did the next best thing," said Cottle.
Yes, it was that sweet.
McGeeney, a senior from Linthicum, turned in the best clutch performance of his career as No. 5 Loyola posted a thrilling, 13-12 overtime win against No. 7 North Carolina yesterday at Fetzer Field.
Junior midfielder Mark O'Brien scored his third goal on a short shot from outside the crease 25 seconds into the four-minute sudden-death overtime period to give Loyola its first victory in Chapel Hill in four attempts.
The Tar Heels had erased a five-goal deficit in the fourth quarter to force the overtime.
"This is their house, their palace, and they have owned teams here," said Cottle, noting that the Tar Heels (2-1) have lost only four home games the past six years. "I'm just glad we don't have to play here for another two years.
"Mark O'Brien's goal was great, but I put him in at the last moment as a safety net in case we missed the shot," said Cottle, laughing. "He's got great speed and he could get back. Great coaching, huh? As for Timmy, he was great."
McGeeney finished with 25 saves, two short of his career and school record set three years ago against Syracuse. He was a virtual highlight film with 10 saves from point-blank range, including shots from Carolina aces Ousmane Greene, Jude and Jason Wade.
McGeeney also had a little luck as North Carolina outshot Loyola, 52-33. Carolina had three shots that banged off the posts in the last three minutes, prompting McGeeney to kiss the pipes.
"North Carolina never gave up," said McGeeney. "But we didn't do the little things that we needed to do to put things away. They used that to their advantage and got back in the game."
Loyola (3-0) had taken a 12-7 lead 33 seconds into the fourth period, its second five-goal advantage of the game. But the Greyhounds took only two shots in the remaining time, and had (( trouble clearing the ball, twice leading to North Carolina goals.
Tar Heels attackman Brendan Carey stripped defenseman Brendan Fry of the ball on an attempted clear, and then threw a short pass to Mark Phillips for a goal to bring North Carolina within, 12-11, with 3:50 left in the game.
Then Carolina attackman Spencer Deering beat defenseman Chris Lloyd for a goal to tie the game nearly a minute later.
Loyola won the faceoff and Cottle called timeout.
"He said whoever drew the short sticks was supposed to go to the goal," said O'Brien. "When I saw their short stick coming over to me, I can honestly say it was the most stressful moment in my career at Loyola."
O'Brien delivered, getting a step on defenseman Steve Schreiber and then firing a low bouncer through the legs of goalie Rocco D'Andraia, which set off a short-lived celebration.
"We've got to work on our possessions late in the game and our defensive slides. Sometimes we left Timmy hanging out to dry," said Cottle. "But we'll be all right. We usually shoot for this game, put all our eggs in one basket. But we've won games in March before, now we've got to win them in May. That's what I'm shooting for."