Syracuse field hockey becomes 1st women’s team in school history to win national championship

first_imgANN ARBOR, Mich. — Players dropped their sticks where they stood in favor of raised, clenched fists. Goalkeeper Jess Jecko flung her mask into the cage and smiled cheek-to-cheek. Even head coach Ange Bradley yelled and swung her arms high in the air, the most animated celebration she’d allowed herself all season.The entire Syracuse team created a mob at midfield, yelling and chanting — restraint forgotten in lieu of pure joy and unbridled excitement.The Orange had prevailed over North Carolina, the only team it lost to all season.For the first time in school history, a Syracuse women’s team was a national champion.“We want to be the first women’s team to win a national championship and we want to be the first field hockey team to win a national championship,” senior Emma Russell said. “We say that every day.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“To be the first women’s team to bring it home, it’s pretty special.”As has been the case all season, Syracuse called upon a new hero in the game’s biggest moment. On Sunday afternoon at Ocker Field, it was freshman Zoe Wilson propelling SU to victory. She started each game of the season at back, but with the game knotted 2-2, Wilson scored her first career goal off a penalty corner — a unit she hadn’t been on for most of the season.With No. 2 seed North Carolina’s (21-3, 4-2 Atlantic Coast) two second-half goals answering Syracuse’s two first-half scores, Wilson’s heroics put No. 1 seed Syracuse (21-1, 6-0) ahead for good.“Lo and behold, she did (score on the corner) today,” Bradley said. “She rubbed it right in my face.“… It was a good time to do it.”With the game tied at two in the second half and North Carolina playing more aggressively, Syracuse seemed to be losing its grip on a game once in its grasp.Russell and Alma Fenne put the Orange ahead by two in the first 18 minutes, but North Carolina outshot SU 6-3 in the second half and earned two corners to SU’s one. With the tide turning, Syracuse called timeout with 13 minutes and 54 seconds remaining.Exactly two weeks earlier, SU had suffered its only loss of the season to the Tar Heels in the ACC championship. Just like that match, Sunday’s game seemed destined for overtime. Bradley gathered her players — not to discuss strategy — but to encourage Syracuse to not slip once more.“It was just a matter of calling timeout, looking at their eyes and reminding them that they trained for this moment every day,” Bradley said. “… That was the message and we’re going to go out there, we’re going to get a goal and we’re going to take this home.”After the team secured a penalty corner when the ball touched a North Carolina defender inside the circle, Wilson knew the shot was hers.Despite being in “Group B” most of the season, Wilson constantly joked with Bradley that she would be on the penalty corner unit that won the national championship. In the lead-up to the NCAA tournament, Bradley brought Wilson from the other end of the field, where the head coach wouldn’t pay much attention to her, and started working her in.On Sunday, Russell inserted the ball to stick-stopper Alyssa Manley who passed to Lies Lagerweij. Lagerweij didn’t hesitate and executed the “slip left” play perfectly, finding Wilson toward the top of the circle.The freshman pulled her stick back and fired a rocket across the cage to the lower-right corner past UNC goalkeeper Shannon Johnson.“I just kept my head down and put it home,” Wilson said. “I’m really just over the moon.”North Carolina head coach Karen Shelton pulled Johnson around the 8:30 mark. After a hard counterattack upfield, Emma Lamison gave Syracuse some breathing room with an empty-netter.The sole loss of the season — at the hands of the Tar Heels — resonated with Syracuse, providing added motivation for Sunday’s game. In a season where Syracuse seemed untouchable, UNC brought the Orange back down to earth, if only for a game.Fenne remembered the quiet bus ride home from Charlottesville, Virginia on Nov. 8, when the Orange lost in the ACC championship.As the team pulled into a rest stop four hours into the return trip, the players shuffled outside and Bradley gathered them around her in the dark, cold November evening. Formed in a silent circle, the team hung on each of Bradley’s words.Fenne felt nauseous watching UNC celebrate. She still felt the same when Bradley spoke to the team outside the bus.Syracuse watched footage of the loss Saturday, but the film session ended with footage of the celebration.“This is one shattered dream,” Fenne remembers Bradley saying. “And we’re not going to have another one.”But Sunday, Syracuse kept its dream intact, and lived it. Comments Related Stories Jess Jecko’s late saves help lead Syracuse to national championship winEmma Russell sets points record en route to national championship winGallery: Syracuse field hockey wins national titleStorify: Fans react to Syracuse field hockey’s first national title Published on November 22, 2015 at 2:54 pm Contact Liam: [email protected]center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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