TAMPA — The first person to reach Kelly Phipps was fellow forward Catherine Brinkman, a senior playing her final game for Palm Harbor University.
The two embraced, falling to their knees, hugging the entire way down.
Their teammates sprinted as a group toward the pair, toppling them over, a mass of euphoric humanity lying on the University of Tampa's Pepin Stadium turf.
Moments after Phipps produced the winning goal — a 25-yarder in the seventh minute of overtime that bounced in front of Boca Raton goalkeeper Caitlin Woody and sneaked inside the far post — to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 victory in the Class 6A state final, the freshman attacker struggled to breathe buried at the bottom of the pile, a mix of overexuberance and 1,000 pounds on her chest leaving her short of air.
It was kind of scary, she said.
It was also the best feeling of her life.
"I thought I was going to die," said Phipps, who is the second freshman in two years to score the championship-winning goal for the Hurricanes (Anja Decker). "When it went in, I was shocked. It was such a great feeling. It still hasn't sunk in yet. This is so awesome."
After 80-plus minutes of frustration for PHU (23-0-1), every attack thwarted by a defense of Boca Raton (23-5-2) that wouldn't allow it much room to maneuver — each team had just three shots on goal during regulation — Phipps sent a hopeful shot at the Bobcats goal.
"We had nothing to lose at that point," she said.
The shot knuckled slightly with the wind, pushing it toward the far post, out of Woody's reach.
"(Phipps) turned well. And when she took the shot, we had the perfect angle. You could see it was getting to that far post," PHU coach John Planamenta said. "And that wind helped it in. When it got toward the post, I was just thinking, 'Get to the inside of it.' "
Brinkman, watching on the wing opposite Phipps, had the best view.
"It was the best feeling seeing that ball go over the line," she said. "I was like, 'Did that just happen?' It's awesome for (Kelly). I'm so proud of her. She's got a great career ahead of her."
By winning its fifth state title — first in Class 6A and second straight overall — PHU is tied for third most in the state and solidifies its spot among Florida's handful of elite programs. The Hurricanes' current seniors have advanced to the title game three times, winning twice.
"It really shows that this program is really strong," Planamenta said, holding his 7-month old son, Colton, in his arms while the infant wore dad's state championship medal around his neck.
"The girls found out before our game that the boys are in the final four. So it's a great program; not just the girls team. It's a great program, the girls and guys together."