Stronger second half not enough for No. 14 Syracuse in 3-1 loss to No. 1 North Carolina

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on October 12, 2019 at 6:26 pm Contact Andrew: arcrane@syr.edu | @CraneAndrew As Syracuse tried to spark a comeback run in the fourth quarter, Olivia Graham corralled the ball after a North Carolina pass went out of bounds, yet took only two steps before UNC’s Erin Matson knocked the ball away. As UNC formulated another attack, SU head coach Ange Bradley took two steps forward and leaned on her toes, her pink sneakers touching the line, her impatience boiling over. “Move, Orange. Move,” Bradley shouted from the sideline. She crouched down to watch. Syracuse cleared that rush, but minutes later another sweep reached North Carolina’s Catherine Hayden on the left post behind SU’s defense, stick cocked back for a shot.This wasn’t the same Syracuse team that gave up 54 combined shots the last three games — wins against Duke and Cal, a loss against Stanford. For most of the UNC game, possessions stalled before goalkeeper Sarah Sinck was forced to dive for a save. Syracuse outshot the Tar Heels in the second half. Limited the nation’s most potent offense to seven shots. Even tallied a late fourth-quarter goal to inject life into a dormant offense.“We tried a lot of different things,” SU head coach Ange Bradley said. And, for the most part, they worked.Hayden wasn’t the only Tar Heel in front of Sinck’s cage. Marissa Creatore joined her, and one-timed Hayden’s quick pass across the circle past Sinck. A two-goal deficit extended to three. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textOn a rainy Saturday afternoon at J.S. Coyne Stadium, the Tar Heels showed why they’ve been the top-ranked program in the country for the last five weeks. They had the tighter press. The more consistent final pass to set up shots. The smoother ball movement to draw off midfielders and create attacking lanes. Despite a stronger second half, No. 14 Syracuse (8-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) dropped its second-straight match, a 3-1 loss to No. 1 North Carolina (11-0, 4-0), and failed to earn its second win against a top-two opponent in as many weeks.“I think you can see that we played with them really well … and I mean doing that is something can really look forward with,” junior Carolin Hoffmann said.Entering Saturday, Syracuse was beginning to peak as its schedule flipped over the halfway point into October — “season three,” Bradley called it. Senior defender Claire Webb had been back for a month, Sinck had emerged as the starting goalie and Charlotte de Vries continued to produce goals at a rate not seen at Syracuse in recent years. An early-season loss to Cornell and tight nonconference games were becoming afterthoughts as the Orange continued to rise in the weekly rankings, reaching its highest point since Oct. 23 of last year. There were still questions, however. Still hanging thorns that would hurt the Orange in the long-run if not addressed: Why was a Webb-led backline giving up 28 shots? Who will score behind de Vries? Was the win over Duke a fluke? In the opening quarter against UNC, each of those questions surfaced. After holding the Tar Heels to one shot through the first 10 minutes, Matson and her 16 goals weaved between Webb and Tess Queen before jutting a pass up the left side. A quick touch from Creatore from left-to-right found Hayden wide open on the cage’s other side.From there, North Carolina tacked on another goal before halftime when Matson took a penalty corner set and jutted through a pack of Orange defenders, before finishing in the back corner. Those tallies sandwiched possession breakups by SJ Quigley and Graham, the corner defenders. Despite not tallying a shot in the second quarter, Syraucse entered halftime only down two.“I think the defense did well in sticking together and communicating,” Graham said.But the offensive spark that kickstarted past comebacks this season didn’t come until there were nine minutes left. de Vries handled the ball between three Tar Heel defenders before rifling her signature reverse hit that bounced off the post and in. After de Vries’ fourth-quarter goal, the Orange had began to operate with an increased urgency. Midfielders dragged balls at a quicker rate, and after balls entered the UNC circle, earning penalty corners became quests for SU. Better finishes will “keep coming,” Bradley said.With under five minutes left, de Vries saw an opening as Chiara Gutsche cut behind the Tar Heels defense. Gutsche stretched her stick out, but the ball sailed out of bounds. The pair dropped their heads and turned around. Already, North Carolina had begun another rush.Improvements after halftime couldn’t sway the game back into Syracuse’s hands, though. At one point, Cooke tried to draw a penalty corner while driving down the left endline, but ended up flipping a UNC player and earning a yellow card.Nearly 10 minutes after the post game handshake line concluded and SU finished its stretches, the Orange huddled one final time on the field. Heads dropped and feet kicked at the turf, similar to after a tight loss to then-No. 5 UVA on Sept. 20. Some SU players had their orange socks rolled down to shin-level. Others had thrown jackets on and stuffed hands in the pockets.They group of 22 split off and began to stuff sticks into equipment bags, swung them over shoulders and sauntered toward the awaiting families. Sinck and backup goalie Syd Taylor came first. Then, Hoffmann turned the corner with a group of others.The junior’s face was bright red and she weaved through traffic. “Good job, CJ,” a parent yelled out. Hoffmann turned slightly and squeaked a smile out. She knew that on Saturday, SU needed to do more than a “good job” to beat UNC. It had played well, with forwards executing in the few chances they had, with defenders limiting Tar Heel chances. But it still wasn’t enough.  Commentslast_img

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