SALEM, Va. - He said it was the least he could do.

Franklin and Marshall president John A. Fry drove six hours to Virginia yesterday to watch a lacrosse game and make sure eight seniors got to enjoy graduation.

While their classmates were graduating Saturday, the members of the women's lacrosse team were at Roanoke College preparing for an NCAA Division III national semifinal. The Diplomats won that game, then made yesterday all they had hoped it would be.

They defeated Salisbury, 11-10, in overtime to win their second national championship in three years.

Then eight seniors gathered in a ballroom with their teammates, families, fans, and their president and became graduates of Franklin and Marshall College.

"This shows how much the school appreciates our efforts and how much President Fry appreciates our determination," senior midfielder Sarah Meisenberg said after the ceremony. "This is a great celebration, and everyone has done so much for us."

It was a boisterous celebration for Meisenberg, Jen Pritchard, Devi Hensch, Shannon Summers, Allison Solomon, Sarah Nyman, Lindsay Evans-Leary, and Chelsea Meerbach. They didn't take time to shower and put on nice clothes or even remove the eye black from their faces. But they wore caps and gowns over their uniforms and marched in to "Pomp and Circumstance."

"Any team that gets that far and can't make graduation deserves a little bit of a personal touch," Fry said.

"I couldn't have imagined a better way to graduate than in that room with all my friends and teammates and parents and family," said Pritchard, a Penncrest High graduate.

The ceremony would have been fun no matter what, but the championship added to the party atmosphere.

With F&M trailing by 10-9, a freshman of all people, Cat Serpe, tied the score with 1 minute, 2 seconds left.

"I was just so excited that we were tied," Serpe said. "I knocked Devi over hugging her, and I can't even describe what it felt like."

Junior Blake Hargest scored on an assist from Meisenberg with 40 seconds left in the first of two three-minute overtime sessions. The Diplomats gained control of the ball early in the second session and ran out the clock.

The Diplomats (20-1) made good on their goals this weekend of beating the last two teams to defeat them. First, it was Hamilton in the semifinals to avenge a loss in last year's title game. Then it was Salisbury (20-1), which ended F&M's 35-game home winning streak in March.

Fry's remarks at the graduation made it clear that there was no place else he would have rather been yesterday than watching a team he admires win a championship. He had a hug for each player as he handed them their diplomas.

"I'll look back and say, especially to those younger and my kids, 'That's what I did in college,' " Pritchard said. "No other team, no other school. It's really surreal and perfect how it all worked out."