Syracuse Pulls The Upset, Cruising To A 4-1 Victory Over #4 Penn State
By Nick Luttrell
CitrusTV Field Hockey Beat Reporter
COLLEGE PARK, M.D. — During Wednesday’s Mid-Week Press Conference, Syracuse Head Coach Ange Bradley quoted three things her team must do to win on Friday: have pride, be united and play relentlessly.
Whether it was one, two or all three of those things, Syracuse (14-5, 4-2 Atlantic Coast) did a lot right in their 4-1 upset win over No. 4 Penn State (14-5, 6-2 Big Ten) on Friday afternoon. Surprisingly, penalty corners weren’t the “X-factor” per se in this game. Instead, it was something that can’t be put on a stat sheet – stick handling.
One thing that Penn State tried to do was pressure the Orange defensively. And credit to Nittany Lions Head Coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss for preparing her team in a way that has slowed down the hefty SU offensive attack in the past. In their losses to Louisville on Oct. 30 and UNC in the ACC tournament last weekend, this tactic was what hurt SU offensively.
But today was much different. In this week’s practices, Coach Bradley must’ve harped on how the Orange can be better offensively when pressured because there was evident change today. In their losses to UNC and Louisville defensive backs, Eefke van den Nieuwenhof and Sienna Pegram held the ball a lot and tried to be patient when they passed it off to their teammates. But today, Nieuwenhof and Pegram didn’t have the ball for a second before they passed it. Quick, hard, efficient passes are what led to the dominating offensive performance by SU.
That didn’t start until the second quarter, though. After an evenly matched first 15 minutes in College Park, SU came out in the second and scored the game’s first goal. After Quirine Comans escaped into the middle of the field past the 23-meter line, she drew the attention of a PSU back and passed it ahead to Claire Cooke. As the goalie charged, Cooke shot it right past her falling left knee and the ball rolled into the back of the net.
But Penn State was not going away. After halftime, the Nittany Lions forced five penalty corners in a row. And whether it was stopped by an SU defender or saved by goalkeeper Brooke Borzymowski, the Orange shut down every one of those chances. It was a huge momentum swing as the SU defense stopped each shot, and a minute after PSU’s fifth penalty corner, the Orange were back on the board.
This time it was Hailey Bitters who drove around the right side of the shooting circle, passed it to herself through a PSU defender’s legs and backhanded it past the goalie for the score. It was an impressive goal, to say the least.
Two minutes later, the Orange were awarded just their fourth penalty corner opportunity of the game. Unlike Penn State, Syracuse took advantage. SJ Quigley inserted to Carolin Hoffman, who shot the ball. It was then redirected by Willemijn Boogert up and over the PSU goalkeeper for the score.
Executing on penalty corner chances was something SU has struggled with all season. But games that they were able to off of their opponent’s mistakes, almost always ended up being an Orange victory.
Penn State eventually prevented the shutout with a Sophia Gladieux goal to start the fourth quarter. Perhaps a little momentum was starting to brew for the Nittany Lions. But that momentum wasn’t on their side for long as two minutes later Eefke van den Nieuwenhof fired a ball into the back of the goal off a penalty corner for an SU score.
Syracuse finished the game outshooting Penn State 15-11 despite the Nittany Lions having one more penalty corner (eight) than the Orange (seven).
With the win, SU’s season stays alive as they advance to Sunday’s quarterfinals to face Maryland/Virginia. Sunday’s game will begin at 1 pm from College Park, Maryland. You can watch the game on B10+ or follow my Twitter for live updates.
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