Syracuse Field Hockey: 2023 ACC Preview
By Max Gifford | @GiffMD
Newly No. 6 ranked Syracuse field hockey opens ACC play this Friday against a top-10 opponent in No. 9 Duke. While the Blue Devils are undoubtedly a formidable opponent, they just scratch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the field hockey power conference that is the Atlantic Coast. The Orange get a shot at every conference opponent before the postseason, so no team will be strangers to Lynn Farquhar’s squad come Halloween for the ACC Tournament.
While SU is currently the sixth-best team in the nation, in terms of the conference, that ranks only third behind No. 4 Louisville and No. 2 North Carolina. Every ACC team has been ranked in the Top 20 of the NFHCA Poll throughout the entire season so far. Here’s a preview of each of the conference competitors that Syracuse will be put up against:
Duke Blue Devils (September 15)
The 2020s have been anything but kind to Duke. This could be the year that the narrative changes. For the first time since the NCAA Tournament back in 2019, the Blue Devils are ranked Top-10 in the nation. Pam Bustin’s squad is coming off a 2022 season where they went 0-6 in ACC play and have yet to win a conference game since 2021. The good news for the Dukies is they’re returning 91% of their scoring from last season, which includes retaining eight of its starters. As a result, the Blue Devils can worry less about developing team camaraderie and more about implementing their game plan because such a large portion of their attacking arsenal is returning. Syracuse has had Duke’s number when it comes to field hockey, to say the least, posting a 12-2 all-time record.
Virginia Cavaliers (September 22)
Virginia, on the other hand, has had Syracuse’s number every year since the Orange won the National Championship in 2015. In 2023, the Cavaliers should pose a similar challenge as always. UVA’s biggest strength includes an experienced backline that has championship experience up and down the classes. Four Cavs played for the U.S. U-21 team that won the gold medal at the Junior Pan Am Cup which included junior Jans Croon, sophomore Madison Orsi, midfielder Daniela Mendez-Trendler, along new freshman Mia Abello A note on Abello, she’s also a member of the U.S. Senior Women’s National Team, which she was selected for her senior year of high school. The ‘Cuse will look to get off a nine-game losing shined against the Hoos.
Boston College Eagles (September 29)
The argument could be made out of all ACC teams, Syracuse may have had the easiest first four games. As for Boston College, the exact opposite can be said. The Eagles started their season against two of the top three teams in the nation in Maryland and Northwestern. Despite those early season losses, BC has actually moved up from its original spot in the national rankings. Leading Boston College at attack is graduate forward Margo Carlin, who racked up just about every First-Team honor there is in Field Hockey last season. The grad just recently surpassed 100 points. She along with a fellow graduate student teammate Caroline Kelly have kept this Eagles squad in the mix of the ACC standings. The goalkeeper currently leads the ACC and ranks second in the nation in save percentage (0.850) and third in goals against average (0.61).
North Carolina Tar Heels (October 13)
The only thing that is different for defending champions North Carolina is for the first time in the program’s history, a new coach will be at the helm for the Tar Heels. The successor to Karen Shelton, the winningest coach in the sport’s history is a player who dominated Syracuse on the field for years. Erin Matson, the 2022 National Player of the Year, takes over for now the most decorated field hockey program after UNC went 21-0 last year and won its 10th National Championship. The first-year head coach hit a bit of a speedbump in the first few weeks losing to the now No. 1 team in the nation in Iowa, but the Tar Heels were once again selected as ACC favorites, and there’s no doubt they will be in National Championship conversations come postseason time.
Louisville Cardinals (October 20)
Originally slated to finish 4th in the ACC Preseason Poll, Louisville has come to play in 2023 so far. The Cardinals currently sit as the second-highest-ranked ACC team behind North Carolina. For the Cards, it’s been their new faces that have them off to such a good start. One of those is transfer goalkeeper Merlijn van der Vegt; who’s already been named one of the ACC’s Defensive Player’s of the Week. The other newbie making headlines is freshman, Tyler Everslage. Like van der Vegt, Everslage was named the ACC Player of the Week on the offensive side of the ball. Those two along with Two-Time NFHCA All-American Aimee Plumb who leads Louisville in scoring have propelled the Cardinals to an impressive start to 2023. This matchup has been a toss-up in recent years between SU and the UofL, and it seems like that trend will only continue.
Wake Forest Deamon Deacons (October 27)
Besides maybe Duke, Wake Forest has the least amount of turnover in terms of roster construction from 2022. From the Deamon Deacons’ previous squad, 14 players are back. Nine freshmen and one transfer are new to the program as well. Wake no doubt relies on its youth, but its underclassmen certainly pack a punch. This begins with goaltender Ellie Todd who had a breakout freshman season. The netminder Todd earned Second Team All-ACC after posting a 14-5 record with 52 saves last year. Going even younger, the Deacons brought in freshmen Mia Schoenbeck and Ava Moore, who were each along with Todd, selected 2023 USA Junior World Cup U21 team. The two have already made an instant impact at Wake Forest, and with the new eight-time ACC Coach of the Year Jen Averill signed to an extension, the Deamon Deacons are in the process of creating something special down in Winston-Salem.
Safe to say, there are no cakewalks on this ACC schedule. Every conference clash, home or away, will be a dogfight. This is why field hockey runs through the Atlantic Coast. Syracuse begins its ACC slate today in Durham, NC against Duke. Be sure to follow @GiffMD on X for live in-game updates for all conference matches home and away.