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Sixth-seeded Syracuse turns back second-seeded Duke in semifinals
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (theACC.com) – In a conference packed with programs that rank among the nation’s elite, tournament seeding usually doesn’t mean a lot.
Exhibit A: Sixth-seeded Syracuse in the 2015 ACC Women’s Lacrosse Championship.
The nationally seventh-ranked Orange scored their second “upset” victory of this year’s tournament, turning back second-seeded and third-ranked Duke, 14-10, in Friday’s semifinal game at Klockner Stadium.
Syracuse (13-6) advanced to Sunday’s 1 p.m. title game against top-seeded and second-ranked North Carolina (15-2). UNC won by a 15-8 score when the teams met at Chapel Hill, N.C., on April 11.
Fueled by hat tricks from Riley Donahue and Loren Ziegler, the Orange overcame an early four-goal deficit on Friday and controlled the second half. Syracuse’s win over the Blue Devils came less than 24 hours after its 14-13 sudden-victory, double-overtime win over fourth-ranked Boston College in the quarterfinals. In both cases, the Orange avenged a 10-9 loss during the regular season.
Friday’s semifinal score was knotted 6-6 at the end of a streaky first half that saw Duke (14-3) build an early 5-1 lead, only to see the Orange rally. Six different Syracuse players scored in the opening 30 minutes, while Halle Majorana and Kayla Treanor each had two assists. Kerrin Maurer and Brigid Smith each scored a pair of first-half goals for the Blue Devils.
Syracuse’s hot hand carried over into the first five minutes of the second half. Donahue scored two goals, and Ziegler also found the net as the Orange raced to a quick 9-6 lead.
The game was far from over, but the tone was set. Syracuse never led by more than the final four-goal margin, but the Blue Devils did not trim the deficit to more than two goals the remainder of the afternoon.
Majorana and Taylor Poplawski each added two goals for Syracuse, and Majorana and Treanor each finished with three assists.
Sunday’s championship game will be carried live by the ACC’s Regional Sports Network (RSN) stations, as well as via ESPN3. Tom Werme will handle play-by-play, with Leah Secando working as the sideline reporter.
Syracuse Head Coach Gary Gait
“It was an exciting game for us to have another opportunity to play a team that we lost to by one goal in the regular season. Our players came out slow today, but responded and believed in each other today. It was the smartest game that we have played all year. We battled back and made good decisions. It was the first time against a top ten opponent that we have had fewer turnovers than the other team. We have learned from our mistakes and gotten better everyday. Even thought we were down today, we stuck to our game plan and worked hard. We got some opportunities and then some momentum. I was very proud of the way we finished the game.”
On his team’s depth:
“It is nice to see everyone stepping up. Our second lien midfielders came through today. It was incredible to have six middies that went out and was effective against a top team in the country. I am so proud of them all being patient and now stepping up in the end of the season.”
On responding to an early deficit:
“We stayed patient and stuck to our game plan. Lacrosse is a game of runs, and we got on one and played smart. We focused on winning the next draw, the next possession, and the next goal. Those are the things that we didn’t get done in the beginning of the year. Today we made the plays we needed in order to win.”
Duke Head Coach Kerstin Kimel
“I would like to congratulate Syracuse. They played the game that I wanted our team to play today. They were very poised, did a great job on the draw, and they capitalized on their possessions.”
On today’s struggles:
“We struggled to win draws and we gave Syracuse possession. Syracuse has a great offense and they fired on all cylinders. We did a lot of good things, but we did not have the ball enough. We felt confident that if we had the ball, we would create good scoring opportunities. We did that at points in the second half, but we did not capitalize on enough of our scoring opportunities. We got the looks, but we did not finish. If you don’t do that, you are probably going to go home with a loss.”
On the trouble at the X:
“They have a great faceoff player. We tried to disrupt her rhythm, but too often we lost the groundballs. We could have done a better job winning those possessions.”
On the rest of the season:
“The word is finish. At this point in the season, everybody we face is going to be a great team. When we have the possessions, we have to finish those plays. When we look at the film; that is going to be what we see. At this point in the season, it is get it done or go home.”