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Syracuse Field Hockey: Orange Meet Tar Heels In Final Four

The field hockey ladies are just two wins shy of winning a national championship.

Jack Marion

The Syracuse Orange field hockey team will meet up with the North Carolina Tar Heels this afternoon in College Park, Maryland with a berth in the NCAA Championship game on the line.

For the Orange, this trip to the Final Four is their third in program history and their second in three seasons. But unlike in 2012, when Syracuse lost only twice prior to the Final Four and only once in the regular season, it wasn't the easiest of journeys.

The Orange struggled at times this season, most notably in mid-to-late September, when they lost three straight games to North Carolina, Boston College, and Virginia. But they rebounded nicely, winning seven of their last eight regular season games -- a stretch that included wins against both Louisville and Duke.

In the ACC Championship tournament, Syracuse steamrolled Boston College in the quarterfinals and knocked off North Carolina in an overtime thriller in the semis before falling to Wake Forest in the title game. Still, it was enough -- combined with their showing in the second half of the regular season -- to earn the Orange the fourth overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

In the first and second rounds of the tournament, which the Orange played host to at J.S. Coyne Stadium in Syracuse, they had little trouble getting wins over Boston and Penn State to advance to the Final Four, held at the University of Maryland.

Syracuse has been led to this point first and foremost by junior forward Emma Russell. Russell leads all ACC players with 20 goals, a number that received a significant boost in the ACC Championship, when she scored four times in the quarterfinal win against Boston College and twice more in the semifinal victory over North Carolina.

Russell was the only Syracuse player to receive All-ACC first-team honors, though two others (junior Alyssa Manley and freshman Lieke Visser) were named to the All-ACC second team. Four players -- Russell, Manley, Visser, and Kati Nearhouse -- were also named to the Longstreth/NFHCA Division I All-Mideast Region first team, while senior Jordan Page was named to the second team.

The ladies hit the field today at 2:00 p.m. in their rubber match with North Carolina. The winner will advance to the National Championship game against either Albany (whom Syracuse beat 2-1 in September) or UConn on Sunday.