Friends turned competitors, Kimber Hower faces her old team on Saturday

Kimber Hower set to face former UNC teammates on Saturday

Once a Tar Heel, the Syracuse keeper now faces off against the top-ranked North Carolina offense.
Published: April 9, 2022
Goalie during SU Women's Lacrosse vs. Duke
Orange goalie Kimber Hower transferred from North Carolina to Syracuse last July.

Syracuse women’s lacrosse knows the North Carolina Tar Heels extremely well. UNC has been the proverbial thorn in the side of the Orange, winning each of their past six matchups. But there’s one Orange player who knows the Tar Heels just a bit better than most.

Redshirt junior goalie Kimber Hower will make her first start against the No. 1 team in the nation this Saturday, after spending the first three years of her college career as a member of that team. It’s the type of matchup you would imagine Hower has had circled on her calendar for months, but she’s done her best to downplay it.

“I mean, there’s a little bit more background to it, but going in, it’s just another game where we have to compete,” Hower said. “We have to play Syracuse lacrosse.”

After three years and no starts in a Carolina uniform, Hower transferred to Syracuse in July.

The move made sense on paper for Hower, who would’ve sat another year behind all-world keeper Taylor Moreno. But it was still a difficult decision, given the strong relationships she built in Chapel Hill.

“Transferring for anyone is a big decision,” Hower said. “You’re uprooting your life and you’re going somewhere else. I was very fortunate to have a lot of people supportive of it.”

Syracuse had been on Hower’s radar since her high school days. She recalled a day when then-head coach Gary Gait made the trip to see her play in Brighton, Utah.

“I was very flattered,” Hower said. “He’s Gary Gait, he’s the G.O.A.T., so whenever you have an experience like that you know it’s something you’ll remember forever.”

Though she transferred with the prospect of more playing time in mind, it took Hower a while to become the true starting keeper for this Orange squad. In the team’s first five games, Hower split time with fellow transfer Delaney Sweitzer, boasting a slight advantage in save percentage through the season’s first five games.

Once Syracuse suffered its first loss against Northwestern, totaling just three saves between the two goalies, it was clear the time-sharing arrangement needed to change. Hower was entrusted with the starting job in the following game against Duke, and she hasn’t looked back since.

“I think the biggest thing is [she’s] playing with more confidence,” head coach Kayla Treanor said. “Each game she’s getting a little bit more comfortableand that confidence you can see out on the field.”

Hower’s last two starts have been her best. She posted a career-high 12 saves in the team’s 14-13 win over No. 7 Loyola, then followed it up with seven more in the 18-6 defeat of Pittsburgh last Saturday.

The .538 save percentage was the first time Hower had posted more saves than goals allowed in a start all season.

And if Hower is indeed peaking, it couldn’t come at a better time. Not only is she facing the highest-scoring offense in America on Saturday, but the Orange are dealing with the loss of Emma Tyrrell, who is out for the season with a lower-leg injury.

If shorthanded SU is going to take down the Tar Heels, strong play from their new keeper will be paramount.

“I’m so happy that she’s now wearing orange instead of Carolina blue,” sixth-year Orange attacker Emily Hawryschuk said. “I’m excited to see her compete this weekend and I know that she’ll dominate.”

The stage is set: Hower will take to the cage Saturday afternoon and battle with her former teammates. No. 4 faces off against No. 1, in a game between the last undefeated team in Division I and a Syracuse squad that has already handed five other teams their first loss of the season in the Carrier Dome.