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Orange rally past North Carolina in semifinals and will face Maryland on Sunday
CHESTNUT HILL, Massachusetts (theACC.com) – Syracuse survived one heavyweight battle on Friday and faces another on Sunday in its quest for its first Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Lacrosse Championship title.
The second-seeded Orange saw a four-goal halftime lead slip away, but regrouped and rallied past North Carolina for a 9-7 semifinal win before 1,114 fans at Alumni Stadium.
Syracuse (16-1) earned the right to face top-seeded and five-time defending champion Maryland in Sunday’s 1 p.m. championship game.
Katie Webster led the Orange with four goals in Friday’s victory, including the final score of the match that gave Syracuse a two-goal cushion with just under six minutes to play.
To call Sunday’s title game a marquee matchup might understate the case. Maryland (18-1) holds the No. 1 spot in the Brine Media Poll, while the Orange is ranked second. The rankings are reversed in the IWCLA Coaches Poll, where Syracuse is ranked No. 1, followed by the Terrapins.
The teams met during the regular season at Syracuse on March 10, with Maryland scoring a hard-fought 12-10 road win.
Webster scored three goals in the first 30 minutes of Friday’s match vs. UNC as Syracuse dominated the first half to build a 6-2 lead by the break.
But the complexion quickly changed at the outset of the second half, which saw the Tar Heels blast in four unanswered goals in the first 9:09 to tie score at 6-all. Carly Davis scored twice in the flurry, and Taylor George’s short-range goal off a pass from Aly Messinger knotted the match with 20:51 to play.
The tie lasted a little over seven minutes, and then Messinger delivered an unassisted goal to put North Carolina in front, 7-6 with 13:35 left on the clock.
That appeared to be the cue for Syracuse, which had not scored since the 20-second mrak of the first half. The Orange responded with unanswered goals by Kayla Treanor, Amy Cross and Webster between the 8:28 and 5:49 minute marks to regain the lead at 9-7.
“I thought our goaltending was strong today, and we rallied when they came back,” Notre Dame coach Gary Gait said. “We showed a lot of character during that stretch by not panicking and sticking together and making that final three-goal run to close the game.”
With its winning flurry, Syracuse finally found a way to slip shots past Tar Heel keeper Megan Ward, who did not start the match but was sensational in the second half with 11 saves. Davis and Molly Hendrick led UNC’s scoring with two goals apiece.
“You just can't dig a big hole against a team like Syracuse,” said North Carolina coach Jenny Levy, who saw her team slip to 14-4. “They have a very potent offense, and we needed to pull the ball in the back of the net. You're not going to win a game scoring seven goals.
“Credit Syracuse, their defense and entire team plays hard and they play together. We fell short in the end but our team did a good job in the second half of figuring out their defense.”
The Orange’s Gait said he was thankful to be moving on to Sunday.
“It was an incredible win for Syracuse women’s lacrosse team today,” Gait said. “I thought North Carolina’s goalie played outstanding, and much credit to their team. It was exciting lacrosse and I’m excited for the finals on Sunday.”
Sunday’s title game and will be carried by the ACC’s Regional Sports Network (RSN) with Mike Hogewood handling the play-by-play and Leah Secondo working as sideline analyst.