At 5-foot-1 and 110 pounds, Maddie Ferraioli doesn't fill up much of a 6-foot-high, 6-foot-wide net.
The senior goaltender for Archbishop Carroll, however, was huge as the Patriots claimed their first PIAA Class 3A championship Saturday in a 9-8 thriller against Springfield-Delco.
With 32.6 seconds left at West Chester East and with Carroll clinging to a one-goal lead in the final frame, Ferraili made a critical save on a free-position shot from about 8 meters out.
"I thought, 'OK, I'm going to do everything possible to stop this,' " she said. "I don't even know how I saved it! I just did everything I could. I would have thrown my body no matter what to stop that ball."
Carroll, which hadn't survived the first round of PIAA action since 2011, led, 5-2, at halftime before the Cougars rallied, tied the game, and even took a brief second-half lead.
Springfield started the game determined not to let Carroll's two best players, Sam Swart (Syracuse) and Katie Detwiler (Loyola, Md.), beat them.
Swart had scored 18 goals in the three games entering the finale. As a result, a double-team frequently chaperoned her around the field. Detwiler received similar attention.
Undeterred, the Patriots began the game with a goal apiece from five players.
Swart (three goals) and Detwiler (two) eventually made themselves heard.
But it was junior Sydney D'Orsogna who tied the game at seven just 27 seconds after the Cougars took a 7-6 lead with 16:29 left.
From there, Ferraioli, who will study accounting at South Carolina, was enormous.
"She held it together and made so many clutch saves," said Carroll coach Lorraine Beers, who also credited former goalie coach Pete Hewett's work with Ferraioli.
Later, Beers added: "I'm really happy for the girls and proud of the way they played and kept it together."
In fact, eight of Ferraioli's 10 saves came in the second half.
"I feel like everything I worked for finally paid off," she said. "This is my final game ever, so it's the end of my career. I just started crying because I was just so happy, happy we could do this for Coach Beers, and I'm just happy I could help my team out."
Ferraioli has been Carroll's starter since sophomore year, but her entree into the position was inauspicious.
"My first game," she said, "I kid you not, I did not save one goal. I just walked off the field and it hit me that I have to step up. I'm the goalie. I just remember someone saying, 'You just stood there like a deer in headlights.' And I said, 'OK, well, I'm going to go home and practice!' Ever since then I've just worked and worked."
She first volunteered for the position as an eighth grader at Villa Maria.
"People were like, 'Lacrosse goalies are kind of crazy, I don't know if you can do it. Do you see how short you are?' And I thought, 'I can do it!' " she said.
"I use it to my advantage," she added. "Everyone looks at me and I think they start laughing because I'm just so short and they think, 'Oh, I'll score on her!'"
Not many Catholic League foes did much scoring against the Patriots, who claimed their 17th consecutive PCL crown this season. The team's lack of PIAA success, however, had always led some to question Carroll's actual prowess.
Thanks to Ferraioli and friends, those questions were answered.
"I just think people shouldn't underestimate us because of what we do in the season in the Catholic League," she said. "I think Archbishop Carroll is amazing, and I think we've had so much talent and I'm just so happy we finally got to show how we play."
Archbishop Carroll 5 4 - 9
Springfield Delco 2 6 - 8
AC: Sam Swart 3, Katie Detwiler 2, Rachel Matery, Grace Gallagher, Sydney D'Orsogna, Amber Germer.
SD: Olivia Little 2, Dana Carlson, Julia Schickling, Kristen Methlie, Bailey O'Brien, Olivia Pace, Bridget Whitaker.
Saves: AC-Maddie Ferraioli 10; SD-Julianne Clemens 2.