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Syracuse backs help unseat undefeated Connecticut to advance to NCAA title game

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 20, 2015 at 3:46 pm Contact Liam: lpsull01@syr.edu ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Syracuse’s Zoe Wilson charged out of the net with her teammates to defend Connecticut’s third penalty corner of the game and knocked Roisin Upton’s shot down. Quick to act, Wilson swung a pass up the field to Emma Russell who in turn found Alma Fenne for the Orange’s third and final goal.Everyone on the team mobbed Fenne and Russell — all except four. Wilson hugged midfielder Serra Degnan and fellow backs Lies Lagerweij and Roos Weers at midfield were removed from the primary celebration.The blocked shot brought UConn’s total to five attempts on the day. With under 15 minutes remaining and the Orange ahead 3-1, the backs play continuously kept undefeated Connecticut at arm’s length“This field… combined with the three backs and the pressure that the forwards put on, was really good,” head coach Ange Bradley said. “I’m pleased with (the play of the backs).”The backs may have separated from the team to celebrate, but it was their efforts that allowed No. 1-seeded Syracuse (20-1, 6-0 Atlantic Coast) to pull away from No. 4-seeded Connecticut (22-1, 5-0 Big East), 3-1, Friday in the NCAA semifinal game at Ocker Field in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Orange held a high-powered UConn offense that entered play averaging 21 shots per game to six by bearing down on counterattacks. SU advanced to its second national championship in as many years.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWith Syracuse setting an aggressive pace early following Fenne’s first goal two minutes in, UConn was forced to match with far-reaching plays up the field. With its own offense extending up the field in attack, head coach Ange Bradley called upon Lagerweij, Weers and Wilson to hold strong without much support.“We knew that (the Huskies) have a solid counter-attack,” Wilson said. “We had to adapt to where their forwards were in protection if the ball was to get turned over.”Down 2-1 at halftime, the second half featured many Connecticut pushes hard and quickly up field, testing the resolve of the trio. But no matter which forward advanced the ball, she was met with stout stick-play and from Weers and Lagerweij.After neutralizing threat after threat, the pair relayed the ball to Wilson who countered the Huskies’ speed with her own.“We’re playing the ACC. We play speed all season,” Bradley said. “The speed that we’ve played has prepared us for this moment.”The formula hadn’t changed from the regular season. Only the stakes.Connecticut’s Charlotte Veitner entered Friday with 99 points and 39 goals on 113 shots. With Syracuse’s attention affixed upon her for 70 minutes, she ended the game with the same marks.Anytime Veitner found herself in the circle, Weers was attached at the hip. The Netherlands-native wasn’t shy to use her body and remained aggressive with her stick and neutralized what otherwise were advantageous opportunities for the Huskies.Veitner managed to slip by the defense with 18:10 remaining in the first half, but Weers instinctively turned, pointed and barked, “Watch her!” to Lagerweij who stood nearby. UConn’s midfielders tried to advance the ball to their leading scorer, but Lagerweij intercepted the pass.“They were opportunists,” said Connecticut head coach Nancy Stevens. “It’s sometimes those opportunities which determine the outcome of the game.”After the final buzzer sounded, the Orange stormed the field to celebrate its national title game berth. Sticks were thrown to the side in favor of hugs. Shouts reverberated across Ocker field and the team converged for a team-wide celebration at midfield.From the huddle, Wilson, Weers and Lagerweij emerged to separate once more. As coaches and other players continued to shout congratulations with locked arms in the large circle, the backs met to revel in a concerted game plan executed more than effectively.“We were confident,” Wilson said. “We knew what we had to do and we got the job done.” Commentslast_img read more