Syracuse tops unbeaten Louisville in regular season finale
SU tops unbeaten Louisville 2-1
In a year full of challenges and uncertainties, Syracuse field hockey wrapped up their regular season on the highest of highs, upsetting Louisville 2-1.
Coming into Friday’s game, Louisville sat atop the ACC standings with a perfect 7-0 record (5-0 in ACC). Syracuse, playing their first and only home game of the season (all other home games were canceled/postponed), stepped onto J.S. Coyne Stadium completely outmatched by Louisville on paper. The Cardinals held the advantage in seemingly every statistical category, from goals and assists to shots and saves.
“They’ve been super dangerous,” said Syracuse forward Charlotte de Vries. The Cardinals are well-known for their stout defensive play, saving 76 percent of the balls shot their way. Nonetheless, the Cardinals gave up multiple goals for only the second time this season, and penalties proved to be their downfall.
Louisville gave up three straight penalty corners to start the third quarter. Though the first two shots were blocked, de Vries nailed the third corner shot in a way that she has grown accustomed to.
“Last year I loved my rebound goals, so when I saw the ball come off the rebound it was kind of like deja-vu,” said de Vries who’s now tied for most goals on the team with three.
De Vries narrowly missed a shot on goal in the first half that hit the post and bounced out of play. De Vries’s ability to regroup and learn from her mistakes is something that SU coach Ange Bradley has seen drastic improvement in, “I’ve seen an incredible amount of maturity and ownership and leadership in Char.”
Syracuse increased its lead to two with a penalty stroke goal from midfielder Laura Graziosi, giving its defense a comfy cushion for the fourth quarter. The Syracuse defense up to that point had been lockdown. They gave up one shot and zero corners in the first half, but started to lose steam in the final quarter of play.
Eventually, the Cardinals got on the board with under three minutes to go, making Syracuse’s goal the rest of the way to maintain possessions and load up on defense. However, with just under a minute and a half left, SU gave up a costly turnover deep in their own territory. This prompted SU goalie Syd Taylor to make a play on the ball, leaving an empty net behind her.
It seemed as if Syracuse was in danger of blowing their lead late, until Syracuse defender Eefke van den Nieuwenhof stepped in front of the goal and made the game saving block. The stop allowed Syracuse to run out the clock and run out onto the field in victory. It’s plays like this that go a long way in establishing the development of van den Nieuwenhof in the eyes of coach Ange, “she’s maturing a lot…growing herself and her game.”
The save by van den Nieuwenhof proved to be the difference in this game. Both Syracuse and Louisville had nine shots total and five shots on goal apiece. Each team also had three saves, until van den Nieuwenhof made the save of the game and helped hand Louisville their first loss of the season.
With the regular season now in the books, Syracuse preps for the ACC tournament which begins this Thursday. Syracuse still doesn’t know what seed they’ll be or who they’ll face in the quarterfinals. With Friday’s win, ‘Cuse currently sits third in the ACC, and if all else stands, they would face Boston College in the first round.