It was supposed to be a key matchup between a pair of top-five teams and arguably the best matchup of the day. Instead, it turned into a nightmare for the No. 3/3 Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse team. Not much went right for the Orange (13-3, 5-2 ACC) as the No. 6/5 North Carolina Tar Heels cruised to an 11-5 win on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The game had a half-hour delay to start due to lightning which was followed later on at halftime with another 20 minute break. The Tar Heels (11-3, 4-2 ACC) drew first blood just a minute into the contest by taking advantage of an early Syracuse yellow card. Gianna Bowe got a low free position shot past Asa Goldstock just three seconds into a man-up situation and North Carolina had a 1-0 lead at the 29:01 mark of the first half.
UNC took advantage of another Orange yellow card almost five minutes later when Tayler Warhime took a pass from Katie Hoeg and scored on the doorstep to give the Tar Heels a 2-0 lead with 24:23 left in the half. North Carolina added another goal three minutes later when Kara Klages cut in front of the goal, took a high pass from Hoeg and dumped it past Goldstock to increase the advantage at 3-0 with 21:24 remaining.
Syracuse briefly stemmed the tide by going on a three goal run of their own over the next 10 minutes. Mary Rahal passed off to a cutting Emily Hawryschuk on a free position attempt and SU was finally on the board at the 19:56 mark. Exactly three minutes later, the Orange cut the Tar Heel lead to one on a man-down situation. With the shot clock running down, Megan Carney sent a well placed pass between a pair of North Carolina defenders to Hawryschuk with just a second left on the shot clock and it was a 3-2 game with 16:56 left in the half. The Orange tied it up at the 12:43 mark due to a man-up situation from a Tar Heel yellow card. In a play very similar to the first SU goal, Nicole Levy sent a pass off of a free position to a cutting Morgan Alexander, who scored easily off Taylor Moreno to make it a 3-3 game.
However, the Orange attack stymied for the rest of the game due to Moreno getting hot in goal. North Carolina regained the lead with a pair of goals by Klages and Hoeg to make it a 5-3 game with 6:59 remaining in the half. SU had an chance to cut into the lead, but Moreno turned all shots away, including three (two of which were free positions) in the final eight seconds of the half. UNC took a 5-3 lead into the break.
North Carolina increased their advantage early in the second half as the Orange offense continued to have problems finding good shots on goal. A hat trick of goals by Warhime put the Tar Heels up 8-3 with 23:39 left in the game. Hawryschuk finally broke the 21 minute scoring drought when she rifled a free position shot in from the top of the fan. The Orange still had some life, trailing 8-4 with 21:15 remaining.
However, UNC slammed the door shut, forcing Syracuse into another 20 minute scoring drought while getting a pair of goals. Alexander finished the scoring for SU with just 96 seconds remaining, but by that point it was a 10-5 game. The Tar Heels put the exclamation point on with just 31 seconds left to finish off the scoring.
We're 90 minutes from go time! pic.twitter.com/qJDweHOplC— Syracuse Women's Lax (@CuseWLAX) April 13, 2019
- Shots: North Carolina 29, Syracuse 25
- Shots on Goal: Syracuse 17, North Carolina 16
- Turnovers: North Carolina 18, Syracuse 17
- Clears: North Carolina 21-22, Syracuse 17-19
- Ground Balls: Syracuse 15, North Carolina 14
- Draw Controls: Syracuse 10, North Carolina 8
- Free Positions: North Carolina 2-5, Syracuse 1-7
Hawryschuk (3 g), Alexander (2 g), Rahal (1 a, 2 gb), Carney (1 a, 1 gb), Levy (1 a), Sarah Cooper (2 gb, 3 ct, 2 dc), Alexa Radziewicz (2 gb, 1 ct), Grace Fahey (1 gb, 1 ct, 2 dc), Natalie Wallon & Allyson Trice (1 gb, 1 ct each), Kerry Defliese & Meaghan Tyrrell (1 gb each), Morgan Widner (6 dc), Goldstock (3 gb, 1 ct, 5 saves)
The Turning Point
The Orange trailed 5-3 with just seconds to go in the first half, but had several opportunities to cash in before the horn sounded. Hawryschuk was fouled with 8.7 seconds left and set up on the center left side of the 12 meter arc. As the players lined up to position themselves, junior midfielder Caroline Wakefield shoved Wallon on the right side of the 8 meter fan, which led to a yellow card and a man-up situation for Syracuse. This also meant that SU had an opportunity from the right hash of the 8 meter fan for a more direct shot on goal (interestingly, Sam Swart was given the free position instead of Wallon). Swart raced in and fired a low shot, which Moreno blocked as she dropped down to her knees.
The ball bounced over the goal and Carney was able to scoop it up with 6.3 seconds left. Carney passed it to Levy, who was just inside the left part of the fan. Levy sent a sidewinder towards the right side of the goal. Moreno got her stick on the shot and deflected the ball away. However, a foul gave the Orange one last chance to score with 1.9 seconds left. Levy took the free position on the left hash of the fan and once again rifled it low. The shot got past Moreno’s stick but as she dropped down, the ball hit her right foot and bounced away as time expired. Three shots, three big saves, and Syracuse came away empty going into the break and North Carolina got a big momentum boost.
However, the Orange still had a man-up advantage coming out of halftime due to the yellow card. Widner pulled down the ensuing draw control and the ‘Cuse had another opportunity to cut the lead to one. SU passed the ball around the perimeter, waiting for an opening in the Carolina defense. However, with 62 seconds left on the shot clock and 51 left on the penalty, Carney’s pass to a cutting Hawryschuk was mishandled and the latter fell down trying to corral the ball. Tar Heel junior defender Catie Woodruff gained possession and tossed it back to Moreno.
North Carolina was able to subsequently burn off the penalty, but could not capitalize and the Orange regained the ball due to the shot clock running out. However, Goldstock’s pass upfield was just short and the ball bounced past Swart and the Tar Heels were able to get it back due to a foul. Just one minute later, Hoeg found Warhime standing on the right side of the goal circle for an easy score.
It was a painful turn of events for Syracuse as they not only failed to cut the UNC lead, but allowed an eventual three goal run (all scored by Warhime) that essentially put the game away at 8-3 with 23:39 left in the contest.
Taylor Moreno: Although the Carolina defense in general deserves a lot of credit for shutting the Syracuse offense down all afternoon, it was the sophomore goaltender that put on a display that netted 12 saves against five goals (she came into the game with an over 50% save rate). The Orange did not help themselves by putting a number of shots within easy reach of Moreno, but there’s no question that this game would have been at least closer if the Tar Heel goalkeeper didn’t have some excellent saves (Probably at least 5-6 were just very good saves). What is indisputable is that she was a big reason why SU lost as big as they did.
Turnovers: While Moreno was having a career day in goal for North Carolina, the Orange offense had a lot of passing problems that cost them opportunities and led to Tar Heel goals. While UNC did have a number of issues of their own (18 turnovers for the day), Syracuse simply could not take advantage of those for the most part (nor with their draw control advantage) and had numerous scoring opportunities turned away simply because the passes were off the mark. This has been an issue for the Orange in the last couple of weeks, and it was nowhere more evident than Saturday afternoon. Goldstock’s pass early in the second half (as noted above) turned the ball over at a critical juncture of the second half and led to a Tar Heel goal that was the beginning of the end.
Defensive problems: While the Syracuse defense played well at times, there were a number of breakdowns in the middle of the fan for much of the afternoon. North Carolina capitalized time and again with quick cuts inside that led to some easy goals. Goldstock was more than once left high and dry as Tar Heel players fired off point blank shots.
Tar Heel offense: While the defense face-guarded and largely shut down the main offensive threat in Jamie Ortega (finished with one assist), other UNC players stepped in and scored with machine like efficiency. Warhime and Klages were open a number of times (four and three goals respectively) and more than made up for Ortega’s absence. Bowe also added a pair of goals. But a major reason why Carolina was able to score so easily at times was Hoeg, who finished with a half dozen assists.
The Orange will finish the regular season on Tuesday night against Cornell (8-4) in the Dome. Game time is at 7 p.m. ET, and will be live-streamed via ACCN/WatchESPN. Syracuse won against the Big Red last year 14-7 in Ithaca.
On a side note, there’s still a bit of ambiguity as to where the Orange will finish in the conference and will be decided next week (worst case scenario is still 4th seed). Notre Dame still has to play Duke later today and that will have an impact on SU. I’ll go into more detail regarding this in the Cornell article.