Wow, now that was a showcase for women’s lacrosse.
If you’re reading this without having seen the game — dude, you missed out.
On Friday afternoon down in Chapel Hill, the Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse team prevailed in an amazing, tug-of-war style game with the Boston College Eagles, 19-17, to advance to the ACC Tournament Championship game.
The game was exactly what you expected (and hoped for) from two teams who became very familiar with each other in the past week and a half, playing each other for the third time in nine days on Friday.
Game one was a tight affair that BC won on a last minute goal. Game two was a nine-goal rout by SU. Coming in to the rubber match, you just knew we were in for a BC bounce-back and another close game. These two heavyweights lived up to the expectations from minute one, delivering a performance to be appreciated by all, and savored by Orange fans.
Unlike SU’s 9-4 quarterfinal win over Virginia Tech, this game was for lovers of offense. Lots and lots of goals. 36 total, to be exact. And a ton of faced-paced, up-and-down action. Plenty of transition. Highlight reel goals and saves (Hello Asa Goldstock!) all over the place. All from some of the best lacrosse players in the college game.
And, of course, the drama. The kind of drama that, again, you would expect from two teams fighting for a conference tournament title and NCAA tournament seeding. But even for this kind of a stage, the drama exceeded expectations.
Highlights from the ACC semifinal win over BC pic.twitter.com/t6BwdPJLWA— Syracuse Women's Lax (@CuseWLAX) April 30, 2021
Down 13-7 early in the second half, with SU having scored five of the last six goals in a four minute span, BC grabbed momentum out of nowhere and went on a 7-0 run in about six and a half minutes to take a 14-13 lead. Watching ‘Cuse go from a six goal lead to a one-goal deficit in less than seven minutes had my head spinning...and shaking...and possibly my mouth screaming at the TV.
The Orange responded, because they’re tough like that, to tie it and take the lead. Then BC tied it, then SU re-took the lead by two. Then the Eagles tied it again. Then Emma Ward scored on a wonderful individual effort with 1:39 left to play to put the Orange ahead for good (see below). Emma Tyrrell finished the win off on an open-net goal with 51 seconds left, but the real great play she made was chasing down the ground ball off the draw control and drawing a yellow card to put the Orange up a player and help clinch the win.
The go-ahead goal brought to you by Emma Ward! pic.twitter.com/2QtrBHtSbG— Syracuse Women's Lax (@CuseWLAX) April 30, 2021
Two days after putting up just nine goals in the quarterfinals, the Orange offense had a banner day, matching their season-high with 19 goals. While they struggled with their shooting against Virginia Tech, today they had no such trouble picking corners and running up their tally. SU shot 59 percent for the game. They paired that with only six turnovers, which was especially impressive given how fast the game moved at times.
Emma Ward had her best day in a Syracuse uniform, scoring a career-high five goals and six points. Sierra Cockerille (3G, 2A) and Meaghan Tyrrell (2G, 3A) each had five-point days, while Emma Tyrrell (4G) and Sam Swart (3G, 1A) both put up four. That’s four SU players to score at least a hat trick and five to put up at least four points. Very strong day from that quintet to lead the offensive barrage.
Emma Ward was awesome in this game. Aside from scoring five goals, her shooting touch in this game was beautiful. Just perfectly placed shot after perfectly placed shot to help keep the Orange offense humming. But more importantly than that, she showed herself to be a player Gary Gait can rely on in big moments. A true freshman, Ward is very precocious as a player. It was she who scored the game winner in this, the biggest game of the year. It was she who had her best game as a collegian on the biggest stage she’s seen so far. She’s fun to watch, but she’s also critically important to this team down the stretch in the wake of Megan Carney’s injury.
Oh, speaking of younger players to step up in Carney’s absence: Emma Tyrrell. The younger Tyrrell sister is experiencing a huge late-season surge thanks to a move to attack and increased playing time with Carney out. She is taking advantage in a massive way, proving herself to be just as capable as her first-team All-ACC older sister. We’ve talked all season about the Meg’s, well now it’s the Emma’s who are stepping up and playing huge roles in the offense. They may be needed for more big postseason plays, but in this game, it was great to see both step up and make big-time plays in big-time moments.
This was a tough game for anyone on both defensive ends, but for the Orange, Asa Goldstock reminded everyone why she is such a special player and so important for this team’s postseason chances. Asa had seven saves while surrendering 17 (29 percent) in this shootout, and while that’s a very low save percentage, that’s definitely not the point of her day.
She came up with multiple big-time, point-blank saves in this game, including a fantastic stop on a Charlotte North free-position in the first half.
Asa Goldstock!— Syracuse Women's Lax (@CuseWLAX) April 30, 2021
Tune in to ACC Network for all of today’s action! pic.twitter.com/4cEmy8bXNS
But no save was bigger than the one Goldstock made with five minutes remaining in the game, when North got free for a shot running across the front of goal from just inside the eight-meter arc. North, as she had done so often on the day to success, tried to go low for the finish. Goldstock read it from the jump, knowing exactly what North was going to attempt, and executing it spectacularly by doing the splits to her right to make an incredible stop and preserve a one-goal lead. *Check out the 1:30 mark of the highlights video above to see that spectacular save.
The numbers might be a little ugly in a game that was all offense, but when defense was absolutely required to help win the game, the Orange’s defensive leader did what she’s done her whole career: made a big play in a big moment. Thank goodness she’s on our side!
The win is a massive one for the NCAA Tournament fate of this Syracuse team. Taking the rubber match with the Eagles, they now have a leg up on BC in the all-important seeding battle. This win absolutely guarantees SU a top-3 seed in the NCAAs, which is important because those are the three teams that get byes while the other 26 teams play in the first round.
The other thing this does is essentially guarantee that Syracuse will avoid North Carolina until a potential matchup in the national championship game. Since UNC is a virtual lock for the No. 1 seed, it was critical for SU to stay in the No. 2 or 3 seed lines to be on the other side of the bracket from the Tar Heels. They have absolutely accomplished that with this win today.
Speaking of North Carolina...
Yes, it was always going to be North Carolina if Syracuse was going to make it to the finals of the ACC Tournament. It’s fitting. They are, after all, the final boss of women’s lacrosse in 2021, so it couldn’t possibly happen any other way. You can’t win the game until you take down the final boss.
The Orange will be looking for a better showing than the 17-6 drubbing the Tar Heels gave them back in early April on the very field they’ll be playing on in the finals. In that game, SU jumped out to a 4-1 lead before UNC blew their doors off with a 16-2 run for a statement win.
They have a way of doing that to teams. Just yesterday in semifinal No. 1 against a Notre Dame team they only beat by one during the regular season, the Tar Heels got down 2-0 in the early going to the Irish. They then scored the next 18 goals of the game. 18!!!
Are. you. kidding. me.
Like, not seven goals in a row like BC did to SU to take a temporary second-half lead. 18 unanswered goals. I’ve never heard of such a preposterous thing. But that’s UNC. They are preposterously good, and everything points to their dominant run continuing.
But Gary Gait and his group have revenge on their minds. At the very least, they want to prove they belong in the same conversation as the Tar Heels, who have been monologuing to themselves for most of the 2021 season.
As far as I’m concerned, the UNC game is all gravy anyway. If they win, AWESOME!!! If they don’t, their NCAA seeding won’t take that much of a hit, if any, and they’ll hopefully get another shot at the Tar Heels in May.
The important game was this one. It was hugely important, to take the season series with BC, and to establish a top-3 seed for NCAAs. Mission accomplished on that goal.
Now, all aboard the gravy train, and let’s fatten up on a North Carolina—Syracuse showdown.
Sunday, May 2. 12 PM. ACC Network.
Let’s. Go. Orange.