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No. 4 Syracuse defeats No. 1 North Carolina on penalty strokes.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – For the first time in program history, the No. 4 Syracuse University field hockey team has advanced to the NCAA Tournament final with a 3-2 stroke-off win against No. 1 North Carolina in the national semifinals on Friday afternoon. Junior midfielder Alyssa Manley tallied the game-winning goal on the sixth penalty stroke of the stroke-off.
"That was an amazing game for both teams," head coach Ange Bradley said. "It was competitive to the very end. I am happy we were able to get the result and advance."
Following two scoreless 15-minute overtime periods, the game would be decided by a stroke-off. Syracuse (18-5) held a 3-2 advantage in the stroke-off heading to its fifth player, junior forward Emma Russell. Russell could not convert and North Carolina (19-4) would tie it up on its final attempt to send it to a sudden victory stroke-off. Junior goalkeeper Jess Jecko made a save on the Tar Heels' first sudden victory try to set the stage for Manley, who slotted it home to send the Orange to its first-ever national final.
North Carolina capitalized off its first shot of the contest. The Tar Heels were awarded a penalty corner in the 16th minute of play. Junior back Nina Notman sent a shot toward the cage and junior midfielder Emma Bozek redirected it to give North Carolina an early 1-0 advantage.
Syracuse controlled possession for the majority of the first half, but could not push through. Eventually, the Orange was able to slot one home in the 34th minute. Russell sent a shot on goal, but was turned away. She collected the rebound and put it past UNC sophomore goalkeeper Shannon Johnson to knot the score. It marked her 21st goal of the 2014 season.
The Orange seized its late first-half momentum and scored in the 48th minute out of the halftime intermission. Manley drove down the field and sent a ball to the far post. It found the stick of freshman forward Lieke Visser, who give the team a 2-1 lead.
North Carolina was seeking to knot things up for the remainder of regulation. With just under 10 minutes left, UNC pulled its goalkeeper in favor of an extra field player. The ploy worked as the Tar Heels' Notman pulled one in from near the top of the circle in the 65th minute to tie it up. Neither team could find the back of the net in the final five minutes and the game was destined for overtime.
Syracuse put together one of its finest defensive performances in the first overtime frame. After freshman midfielder Laura Hurff was dealt a yellow card in the 76th minute, the Orange were forced to play a man down for five minutes. North Carolina was on the attack throughout, but was turned away again and again by the Orange defense.
The Syracuse University field hockey team will take on the winner of No. 3 Connecticut and No. 12 Albany in the national final on Sunday afternoon in College Park, Md. The game is slated to begin at 1 p.m. A free video stream will be available on NCAA.com.