Syracuse women’s lacrosse falls just short of upsetting No. 1 North Carolina
SU women’s lacrosse falls just short of upsetting No. 1 North Carolina
Syracuse women’s lacrosse scratched. They clawed. They battled through injury, both during the week and in the middle of the game.
On Saturday, it simply wasn’t enough.
Despite a valiant shorthanded effort, the Orange (10-3) fell to the nation’s top-ranked team, the still-unbeaten North Carolina Tar Heels. Four-time All-American attacker Jamie Ortega led all scorers with five goals as the Tar Heels moved to 13-0 on the 2022 campaign with a 14-12 victory in the Carrier Dome.
“This game is a game of inches,” coach Kayla Treanor said. “Just little things that we’ve got to be able to fix and I know we can walk away with a win.”
The loss ended SU’s bid to be the first team in program history to navigate an undefeated season in the Dome. Syracuse had won its first seven home games in 2022 before Sunday’s defeat to UNC.
Even in a loss, the crowd in the Loud House brought the thunder in a way it never had before. Syracuse fans set a single-game attendance record for a women’s lacrosse game at Syracuse with just over 2,900 supporters.
“We felt their energy on the field,” senior attacker Meaghan Tyrrell said. “Having them out there was huge for us and we’re so thankful that they showed up for us today.”
The losses for Syracuse on Saturday stretched beyond the numbers on the scoreboard. During a week in which Syracuse learned midseason All-American Emma Tyrrell would be ruled out with a season-ending injury, the Orange also lost 2021 All-American Megan Carney midway through the game.
After Carney scored to tie the game at six during the second quarter, she was visibly shaken up, then watched the rest of the game with an ice pack on her left knee. Carney had missed Syracuse’s two previous games while being listed as “day-to-day” by the athletic communications staff.
Though injuries are nothing new for Syracuse as a program, the emotional toll of the injuries the team has faced this year—first senior midfielder Sierra Cockerille, then Emma Tyrrell, now Carney—has still been difficult to bear.
“It definitely hurts your heart a little bit – actually a lot of bit,” senior defender Sarah Cooper said. “But I think that’s what makes our team so special, how much we care for each other and how much we love each other. That’s something not many teams have.”
The game came down to the final three minutes after back-to-back Orange goals cut UNC’s lead to one. A key draw win by the Tar Heels’ Elizabeth Hillman allowed UNC to run the game clock under 100 seconds before Ortega scored her fifth of the day.
The teams were evenly matched across nearly all statistical categories. Ultimately, Syracuse didn’t capitalize on enough scoring chances. The Orange out-shot North Carolina 32-25, but 12 shots missed wide and UNC’s keeper Taylor Moreno saved eight more.
“Those opportunities, we’ve got to be able to finish them, because we were getting them,” Treanor said. “It’s not like it was a ton of saves, a lot of them went wide.”
Meaghan Tyrrell predictably led Syracuse’s offense with four goals and added the only two Orange assists on the day. The team also got a huge boost from sophomore midfielder Natalie Smith, who stepped up big in the absence of Carney and Emma Tyrrell.
Smith had scored just three goals in her collegiate career entering the contest but doubled that output with a hat trick Saturday against the number one team in the nation. This included the final goal of the day for the Orange, which made it a one-goal game with just over three minutes to play.
“Feeling that [electricity] from the crowd, from Meg [Tyrrell] hugging me, everything felt so good that I just wanted to keep it going,” Smith said. “Everyone was giving me so much support and confidence, I knew I could finish it.”
The Orange will have little time to regroup before facing their next test, a road game Tuesday at Cornell. The Big Red are 7-4 on the season and0-2 thus far in their contests against ranked opponents (both games were decided by just one goal).
But in the aftermath of a loss like they suffered Saturday, it could never be too early for Syracuse to start thinking about a potential rematch with North Carolina.
“We’re hoping to see them again,” Tyrrell said. “If it’s not ACCs, then down the line at the NCAA Tournament.”