The No. 6 Syracuse University field hockey team (18-3) edged No. 4 University of Connecticut (17-2) to claim its second consecutive Big East Championship Sunday at J.S. Coyne Stadium. The Orange nearly blew a three-goal lead toward the end of the first half, but held on to claim the tournament crown, 3-2.
The Big East title earns SU an automatic bid into the NCAA Division I Field Hockey Tournament. The Orange will learn their first opponent in the tournament Tuesday when NCAA.com hosts a selection show at 8 p.m.
SU defeated Villanova in the first round of the conference tournament 3-0, before facing UConn in the tournament final for the second time in as many weeks. UConn sophomore Marie Elena Bolles notched the deciding goal, a heartbreaking shot that just poked past SU’s goalkeeper Leann Stiver, in the Oct. 23 meeting between these conference foes to give the Huskies a 3-2 double-overtime victory.
Unlike the first meeting, which saw the bulk of the scoring in the second half, the teams exclusively scored in the first half Sunday. Freshman forward Lauren Brooks struck early for the Orange at the 3:04 mark. The goal was her second on the weekend. Brooks took home the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player honors for her performance. Senior midfielder Martina Loncarica assisted on the play.
Senior midfielder Liz McInerney scored 55 minutes later on a shot from the middle of the circle to give the Orange a two-goal lead. SU jumped to a seemingly insurmountable lead in the 19th minute when Loncarica scored on a penalty stroke earned when a UConn defender took down senior forward Heather Susek in the circle.
SU recorded nine shots in the game. UConn goalkeeper Sarah Mansfield made four saves on the day.
UConn registered the bulk of its shots early, firing seven shots in the first half compared to only one in the second.
The Huskies finally put one past Stiver, who made two saves on the day, when Anne Jeute deflected a pass in the 25th minute. Rayell Heistand scored for the Huskies less than two minutes later on a penalty stroke.
SU held off UConn’s offensive attack for the entire second half, allowing only one shot and two penalty corners.
With the Big East Championship secured, SU can now turn its attention to the NCAA Tournament. Last season, Syracuse lost in the second round to Ohio State, who then lost to eventual champion Maryland.
Only 16 programs will be selected for the tournament, which culminates at Trager Stadium in Louisville, KY Nov. 18 and 20. SU performed well this season against potential tournament teams, beating seven of 10 ranked opponents. The first round begins Friday.