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Saturday, Oct 12, 2019 at 5:56 pm

Syracuse Leaves Loss to No. 1 North Carolina with Heads Held High

By Patrick Gunn

CitrusTV Field Hockey Beat Reporter

Syracuse Field Hockey did their cool-down exercises with the same energy they usually have after playing a home game at J.S. Coyne Stadium. The team then greeted several local field hockey teams, who were waiting for autographs, a postgame ritual that SU head coach Ange Bradley preaches to her players.

“I really try to work to do that with our kids always,” Bradley said. “Girls need strong role models and mentors and there’s not enough of that out there. We take a lot of pride in having that opportunity to help out young kids.”

The Orange had every reason to be upbeat, even after losing two close games in a row. Syracuse had just proved that they could fight with a powerhouse, keeping a strong North Carolina team in check through four quarters.

No. 14 Syracuse (8-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) held strong but was unable to beat top-ranked North Carolina (11-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast), falling 3-1 to the Tar Heels on Saturday. Small details decided the game, like taking advantage of opportunities and consistently making clean passes.

The Tar Heels came into this game averaging 14 shots per game in ACC play. They were held to just seven against Syracuse, allowing only two shots in the second half. This is a testament to the strong defensive performance from the Orange.

“We just stuck to a game plan,” Bradley said about the team’s performance. “We had a very good scheme planned for the week, we tried a lot of different things. I thought our team did an outstanding job today adapting and adjusting and varying wear when being pressured with the ball.”

UNC star forward Erin Matson was held to just one goal and two shots with her lone goal coming off a penalty corner. Coming into this game, she had already scored with 16 goals on the season and ranked first in the nation in goals per game, averaging nearly two goals per game. SU freshman midfielder Olivia Graham said playing with Matson helped the team contain the juggernaut.

“We had a game plan and we stuck with it for the entire game,” Graham said.

The difference in this game came down to shot execution. North Carolina only had seven shots, but all of them were on goal. Their efficiency led to more chances as the Tar Heels scored on two breakaway plays – Catherine Hayden’s at the end of the first quarter and Marissa Creatore’s in the third. Both players have scored at least nine goals this season.

The Creatore goal looked like the final blow in another shutout for the Tar Heels. However, Syracuse’s star Charlotte de Vries sprung into action immediately and scored her 13th goal of the season, moving past three defenders to get the Orange back within two.

Unfortunately, one goal was not enough to beat UNC as SU struggled to find the connections in the circle. That being said, Bradley knows her team is only a few steps away from being great.

“For us, we’ve just got to get faster in moving the ball in the front third and being able to get the connection working a little bit better,” Bradley said. “And that’ll keep coming that’s what the month of October’s about. When it does, we can play with any team in the country and be a very, very good team.”

Junior forward Carolin Hoffman correctly noted that Syracuse outshot North Carolina 3-2 in the second half, a huge feat for the Orange.

“Doing that is something that we can really look forward with,” Hoffman said. “I really think that if we stick together, no one can break us.”

The way that the ‘Cuse is playing now, it’s hard to see this team breaking anytime soon. Syracuse faces two more tough opponents next weekend, starting with Boston College at Chestnut Hill on Friday.

pagunn@syr.edu | patgunner_