Field Hockey Prepares for its Toughest Battle
By: Skyler Wilkes | @swilkes04
CitrusTV Field Hockey Beat Reporter
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – October is a crucial month in college field hockey. The regular season is winding down and mostly conference games remain. For 11th ranked Syracuse though, everything has pretty much just begun. The Orange have four matches left, all against current top-25 teams.
SU’s biggest test is approaching fast, a meeting with No. 1 North Carolina is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday. UNC is 11-0 and the lone undefeated squad in the country. To make things even more intimidating, eight of those victories have come against some of the best teams iin the nation. Not only are the Tar Heels first in the polls, they lead the pack in both scoring average and scoring margin too. They are also second in goals per game and third in points. On the other hand, the ‘Cuse is fourth in all of those categories.
Despite producing a winning record (4-2), the Orange have struggled a bit against high level competition. Syracuse has been outscored 8-1 in its two losses at the hands of then-17th ranked Princeton and formerly No. 10 Virginia. UVA is the only top-10 team that SU has battled and the Cavs dominated, finishing with eight more corners and a 26-8 shot advantage.
“We just have to keep passing the ball quicker, improve our team defense, and those little things: earning the corners and executing the corners are the things we need to continue to grow in,” explained head coach Ange Bradley.
Things seem to be working well for her crew. Since that defeat, the Orange have won five straight contests, outscoring their opponents 20-1. Regardless of the recent success, SU knows to be wary of the five-time reigning ACC champions.
“The game’s a lot quicker when you’re playing top teams and you don’t have as much time, as much room, so you have to get used to that tempo and set that tempo,” said Coach Bradley, “We definitely have to keep it growing and keep with that speed, transition to attack, transition to defense. It’s got to be quick.”
The Heels have certainly set the tone in prior matchups. They have won seven of the last eight meetings and lead the all-time series 14-7. But, if the game is anything like last year’s, we are in for a treat. The first time around, Syracuse stunned UNC with a 5-0 victory at home. Then, North Carolina exacted its revenge by taking down SU in the conference tournament 4-1.
Coach Bradley understands the magnitude of this game and what her team needs to do to pull off the upset.
“We just have to come together and believe and play good team hockey and that’s good team attack and good team defense…This is our opportunity to see how far we have to continue to raise the bar or how close we are to the gold standard.”
One thing is for sure, the Orange’s defense is elite. The ‘Cuse sit atop the country with nine shutouts, three more than its upcoming challenger. Goalie Brooke Borzymowski is also eighth nationally in save percentage. ]
Overall, it’s going to be quite the clash between an offensive juggernaut and a defensive stalwart.