EVANS, Ga. - Kristin Maris and her Western Washington team almost extended their breakout season one more game.
Despite a late goal by Maris, West Florida's Shashana Campbell scored 3 1/2 minutes into overtime to lift the third-ranked Argonauts to a 2-1 victory in the NCAA Division II Final Four at Blanchard Woods Park.
"It was an exciting game," Vikings coach Travis Connell said. "It really shows the character of the girls and how they never stop believing, and it's contagious. One player stepped up, then another, then another and the game really turned in our favor. It took us literally 90 minutes to get that final goal."
While defending champion West Florida advances to play Grand Valley State in the championship game Saturday, No. 9 Western Washington finishes at 20-2-1. The Vikings set a school record for wins in a season and claimed their first West Regional title.
"Obviously, it was a great season," Connell said. "We're all disappointed now we didn't go further, but at the same time, with time, we'll all look back and enjoy this."
Western Washington trailed 1-0 after a Campbell goal with 23 minutes left in the contest. The Vikings bounced back and started pressing the issue on the offensive end.
Western Washington took 10 of its 17 shots in the second period, but it couldn't punch past goalie Sarah Story, who posted seven saves. Then with 34 seconds remaining, Brina Sych fed a pass inside to Maris, who headed the ball in the top left corner of the net.
"We knew it was do or die in the last few minutes, so we put a ton of pressure on them and eventually it paid off," Maris said. "We just kept with it."
In overtime, Chelsea Palmer found Campbell speeding down the left side of the field. Campbell beat her defender and then fired a 12-yard shot inside the left post past goalie Alyssa Beauchamp (five saves).
"Western Washington, fantastic competitors," West Florida coach Joe Bartilinski said. "Had we not snuck in that goal, I would have been every bit as proud of how these youngsters have worked all year."