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Defending champion Orange defeat Notre Dame, face UNC on Sunday
BLACKSBURG, Va. (theACC.com) – Syracuse cleared another giant hurdle in its bid to successfully defend its Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Lacrosse Championship title.
The second-seeded Orange (16-4) used a stout defensive effort to turn back third-seeded Notre Dame by a 9-5 score in Friday evening’s second semifinal match. Syracuse led Notre Dame (13-6) by a single goal at halftime but outscored the Fighting Irish 5-2 in the final 30 minutes. That included a stretch of 16:45 in which Syracuse held Notre Dame scoreless while putting up four unanswered goals.
“I thought (goalkeeper) Allie Murray and our whole defense just played amazing in the second half,” Syracuse coach Gary Gait said. “We made some adjustments at halftime, and really just shut them down in the second half and limited them to some outside shots.”
Syracuse, ranked fourth nationally, will face top-seeded and third-ranked North Carolina (15-2) in Sunday’s 1 p.m. championship game at Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium.
The game will be a rematch of last year’s ACC final, which saw the Orange edge UNC, 9-8, in double-overtime at Charlottesville, Virginia. The Tar Heels won this year’s regular-season meeting, 12-11, at Syracuse on April 16.
“They are a team that got by us by one in the regular season and will be favored in this next game,” Gait said. “They’ve had an amazing year and only have a couple of losses. We’ll do our homework and come out and try to get after them on Sunday.”
Kayla Treanor scored a pair of first-half goals on Friday night to lead Syracuse to a 4-3 lead at intermission. Kelly Cross and Nicole Levy also found the net for the Orange in the first 30 minutes.
Kiera McMullan scored two of Notre Dame’s three first-half goals. Casey Pearsall scored the other and assisted on McMullen’s second.
Riley Donahue scored two of Syracuse’s five second-half goals, while Cross, Levy and Halle Majorana added one apiece. Levy has scored seven total goals in the first two rounds of this year’s ACC Championship.
“In a 4-3 halftime score, to come out and get up three or four goals is huge,” Gait said. “It was a low-scoring game and our defense was playing well, so we just tried to maintain good possessions and give our defense a rest so that when (Notre Dame) did get the ball we were ready to play some great D.”
The Fighting Irish held their own defensively, particularly in goal, where keeper Samantha Giacolon recorded nine saves. Notre Dame, ranked sixth nationally, entering the ACC Championship, will now await what promises to be a solid NCAA Tournament seeding when bids are extended on the evening of May 8.
“On the whole, the ACC Tournament could be harder than the NCAA Final Four,” Notre Dame coach Christine Halfpenny said. “You go up against one top-10 RPI team, and then you have to face another one in less than 24 hours. In two games, we played very hard and we battled. We couldn’t have been more ready mentally. The biggest takeaway is we had a great opportunity to get (NCAA) tournament ready.”
Sunday’s 2016 ACC Women’s Lacrosse Championship final will be broadcast on the ACC’s Regional Sports Networks and will be available on ESPN3. Tom Werme will call the play-by-play, while Leah Secondo serves as color analyst.