When the players rushed the field after the game, forming a wild team-wide embrace, it was as much a sigh of relief as it was a celebration.
The last 30 minutes of the game were pure tension.
And the overriding feeling was impossible to ignore: How much longer could Haddonfield hold on?
The answer: long enough to win a state championship.
The Bulldawgs withstood flurry after flurry in the second half Saturday afternoon to escape with a 2-1 win over Madison in the Group 1 state field hockey championship at Bordentown High School.
The win marks Haddonfield's first field hockey state title since 1991.
"I feel on top of the world. This is the greatest day ever," said senior Meghan Smart, whose team fell to Shore in last year's state title game. "From the first day of preseason, this is what we've been working for."
Composure was a critical theme of the game. It wasn't just Haddonfield's team-wide composure as it maintained its early lead against a ferocious attack. It was individual composure by a few of the game's heroes.
Smart put the Bulldawgs (20-5-1) on the scoreboard first, scoring on a penalty stroke two minutes into the game.
It was a stark contrast to a play later in the second half, when Madison's Elizabeth Romano - one of the best goal-scorers in the state - sent her penalty stroke wide of the cage.
The shot would have tied the score with 10 minutes, 49 seconds to play.
"I knew if I hit my spot and stayed composed, the shot would go in," Smart said of her penalty stroke. "I take my time. They give you 10 seconds to take your stroke. Usually when the ref blows the whistle, the girl will shoot right away. I wait four seconds. I just stare at the ball the whole time, focus on the shot, and then go."
Despite not having the advantage in possession in the first half, Haddonfield netted an opportunistic goal off a corner when Emma Feldhake converted a feed from Jamie McCormack with 6:26 left in the first half to put the Bulldawgs ahead by 2-0.
After that, it was all Madison (16-6).
"They definitely turned it up in the second half and had a lot of momentum," Haddonfield coach Lindsay Kocher said. "We just had to stick to the game plan. We didn't want to sit back, we had to keep going at them. We stayed together-and that's the biggest thing."
The second half was full of Madison's shots hitting the post, and others missing by just a few inches.
But it was also marked by the big-time play of the entire Haddonfield defense, particularly sophomore goalie Megan Maynes, who stopped five shots while letting in just one goal-a slap shot by Romano with 19:55 left.
The second half for Maynes required nonstop concentration.
The final minute was particularly tense when, as is customary, the clock on the scoreboard stopped running and, instead, was kept by the referees.
"Having the clock not show the time was really, really stressful," Maynes said. "But I just felt like all the work we'd been doing all summer and leading up to this game - every single second of it - it just all came together in that one moment when the game was over."
Madison 0 1 - 1
Haddonfield 2 0 - 2
Goals: H-Meghan Smart, Emma Feldhake; M-Elizabeth Romano.
Saves: Megan Maynes 5; Nicole Ducey 6.