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Friday, Sep 20, 2019 at 9:28 pm

Syracuse Leaves First ACC Loss with Confidence

By Patrick Gunn

Field Hockey Beat Reporter

Syracuse Field Hockey is a young team. With only two seniors compared to eight freshmen, the Orange are playing incredibly well given their general youth, and every game is a new chance to grow.

Against their first top-five opponent of the year, their youth got the better of them.

Two penalty corner chances were all that no. 5 Virginia (6-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) needed to knock off no. 19 Syracuse (5-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) to come out of the Salt City with a 2-0 win.

The two teams played an intense, physical game in sweltering conditions that featured a combined five green cards, two yellow cards, and 24 fouls. This time, the Cavaliers displayed the fortitude needed come out victorious.

That does not mean that Syracuse did not give a game effort, far from it. It’s hard not to show respect for the fifth-ranked Cavaliers. Virginia Head Coach was greeted to an ice bath after that game – and, given that she picked up her 400th win as a head coach, the shower was well deserved. She only got it after a back-and-forth fight from the Orange.

“Regardless of the result, you got to respect your opponent and thank ’em for the lesson that you got,” Head Coach Ange Bradley said about the loss. “And we got a lot of good lessons today that will help us on Sunday and for tomorrow’s practice.”

“I thought we held together pretty well,” freshman Olivia Graham said about the team. “Especially, we have such a young group, and I know that, for me, it was our first ACC game and I thought we all did well staying together and fighting for what we wanted.”

Indeed, Syracuse, statistically speaking, was the better team. The Orange outshot the Cavaliers 10 to 6, while leading in man-up opportunities six to one while having the same number of shots on goal (four) and penalty corner chances (5) as the Wahoos. In the first half, in particular, Syracuse dominated possession of the ball, outshooting Virginia five to three.

This is partially where the Orange’s inexperience showed. They were unable to take advantage of their man-up opportunities and put enough pressure on the Hoos’ top-notch defense.

“I think that our immaturity didn’t understand that, and that’s on me as a coach,” Head Coach Ange Bradley said about their opportunities. “That’s something that we have to get better at to identify and be able to amp up pressure even more than what we did.”

Meanwhile, high praise has to go the Cavaliers for their efforts. When they had penalty corner chances in the second half, they took advantage. Cato Geusgens got the Wahoos on the board off a corner that survived a video assistant referee review. Anzel Viljoen sent in a shot that was tipped by Olivia Graham of Syracuse to give Virginia a seemingly insurmountable lead. Fittingly, the Cavaliers scored on their only recorded shot of the third quarter, while Syracuse could not connect on any of their four in that frame.

Not to mention Virginia kept up the pressure physically and were aggressive all game, keeping the Orange uncomfortable in their home arena. Even goalkeeper Lauren Hausheer played aggressively. She not only racked up four saves in her third shutout of the year, but she came out of goal and tackled Graham halfway through the fourth quarter. That play would prove consequential, as it prevented Syracuse from getting another opportunity to score. Syracuse was initially awarded a penalty corner chance, but that was overturned via review.

“I thought the call was going to be a stroke because she did not touch the ball at all,” Graham said about Hausheer’s slide. “But in the moment I just really wanted to score, and I thought I was going to, so it was really unfortunate.”

Despite the painful loss, Syracuse left with their heads held high.

“I mean, obviously we’re frustrated,” Carolin Hoffmann said. “But I mean, taking out of that game we can really see that we can play with the top teams in the nation so, yeah it’s a loss for us, but we can also see that we have a lot of potential and that we can work and live off of that.”

Bradley saw this game as an excellent opportunity to take away several lessons.

“As I’ve said from the beginning, this team is growing, and I see it coming,” Bradley said. “We’re getting better, our ball speed’s better, and I’m really optimistic about this team and the belief that they have in each other. I believe in this coaching staff, and we’re on a mission to grow every day.”

“I can’t be more proud of these kids today, and it’s a great confidence builder that, as they say, we can play with anybody and we’ll be ready to compete.”

Syracuse has an early opportunity to put their new lessons into action. The Orange faces Colgate on Sunday at one in Hamilton.

pagunn@syr.edu | @patgunner