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Syracuse women’s lacrosse: Orange win thriller over No. 5 North Carolina, 14-12

‘Cuse picked up the massive win in a tense, back-and-forth fight with the Tar Heels.

2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship Photo by Greg Fiume/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse team won an absolute thriller of a heavyweight fight on Saturday afternoon against the No. 5 North Carolina Tar Heels, 14-12, to improve to 15-0 on the season and 8-0 in the ACC.

There was so much at stake in this game, obviously for the current season, but also from a historical perspective. With this win today, the Orange grabbed one historical achievement and brought two others to a grinding halt.

With the win, ‘Cuse has now won 15 games in a row, which ties the all-time program record set back during the 2012 season. The win also helped the program to exercise some very significant demons against the Tar Heels. First of all, it was SU’s first win over UNC since the 2017 regular season, ending a streak of seven straight losses in the series.

And then, there was the big behemoth record. The Heels had won 41 consecutive home games coming into today. They had not lost at home since March of 2019. The current four-year seniors at UNC had never lost on their home field. On their Senior Day, the Orange handed them their first-ever home loss.

As far as the game itself was concerned, this one was actually pretty simple despite the incredible intensity and back-and-forth nature of the game.

This game came down to a battle of North Carolina’s draw wins and possession advantage versus Syracuse’s offensive efficiency and one Delaney Sweitzer in goal.

The Tar Heels dominated the draw game on the day, topping the Orange 18-12 (60 percent) and getting a significant possession advantage for themselves. Just as important in that statistic was creating a possession disadvantage for ‘Cuse to keep the ball away from the exceedingly talented Orange offense.

As a result, Carolina outshot SU 35-25 for the game and were able to whittle away the clock as they ran every possession most of the way down, including getting way too many second chance opportunities after picking up a lot of loose balls.

While winning draws and running clock on offense was UNC’s best chance to win the game, ‘Cuse was able to come out on top thanks in part to their incredible efficiency on offense. When they did have the ball, they used their limited possession time to shoot the proverbial lights out against the Tar Heels. The Orange finished the game shooting 14-of-25 (56 percent). They did just enough with the limited chances they had to out-tally UNC.

Now, let’s get to the hero of the game, and that would, of course, be Delaney Sweitzer. This is not a new occurrence as she has been doing it all season, but wow does she make it a regular habit of bailing out her defense with unbelievable saves, so many of which are right on the doorstep.

Delaney finished with 15 saves, tying a career high, and a .556 save percentage in perhaps her best performance of the season. Oh, she also tied a career-high with six ground balls and two caused turnovers just to make it extra clear how much hero ball she was playing. Her play this year has been beyond belief. If she is not one of the five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award this season, there should be an investigation.

The offense went through some lulls in this game, partially because of the lack of possession and partially due to NC’s defense, but they still emerged with 14 goals, a great number given the way the game played out. The Tyrrell sisters led the way. Meaghan Tyrrell (2G, 4A) got hurt multiple times in this game and kept coming back for more, passing Kayla Treanor on the all-time points list in the process (394, two away from Katie Rowan).

Emma Tyrrell (4G, 2A) matched her sister with six points on the day, including an unbelievable effort on the goal that put the game away with 72 seconds left as she went top shelf to grab a pass and bounce one home from a ridiculous off-balance position to give the Orange their 14-12 lead.

Natalie Smith (3G) had her best game of the season with a hat trick, and Emma Ward (3A) finished with three helpers. Meg Carney (2G) scored a brace, and Maddy Baxter, Savannah Sweitzer and Olivia Adamson each added a goal.

One other thing the offense did well was strike back multiple times after North Carolina goals. While it wasn’t the best day on the draws, I counted four times when SU scored within a minute of a UNC goal to help punch right back quickly, including the eventual game-winning goal (see below). That was definitely a big factor in helping to keep the Tar Heels at bay and secure the win.

Olivia Adamson had a rough day on draws, along with Maddy Baxter, but the Orange did win two of the final three draws as they were closing out the game to help make sure the Tar Heels never even got a look at the cage in the waning minutes. Katie Goodale led the team with five draw wins on the afternoon, including the final draw that allowed the Orange to run out the clock.

The Orange will be back in action next week when they host the Boston College Eagles for the regular season finale on Thursday, April 20 at 7 PM on ACC Network. The game will be played at the SU Soccer Stadium.