No. 15 Syracuse inches closer to NCAA tournament berth with 3-1 win over Cornell

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Claire Webb weaved through the rest of her Syracuse teammates, knocking her equipment bag on shoulders, until she found her mother, Sharon. With senior day winding down, two hours after she strolled between an arc of sticks created by the Orange’s underclassmen, tears fell from Webb’s eyes as she pulled back from a hug with Sharon and cracked a smile.To her left, SJ Quigley and Tess Queen posed for pictures with the Quigley family. Behind Webb, the remainder of her Syracuse teammates signed posters for fans who lined the pavement for nearly 10 minutes, awaiting the final team huddle and stretching to end.One month ago, Webb’s hand was still wrapped up and the senior couldn’t play. Since then, she’s been the anchor for Syracuse’s backline. Another win — the Orange’s third-straight and sixth in nine games — had already been secured. An NCAA tournament berth had gone from likely to likelier. A youthful team had once again meshed with limited veteran experience over the last 72 hours to manufacture two weekend wins defined by statistical domination.The distinct changes that began after Syracuse’s loss to Cornell on Sept. 7 once again emerged on Sunday afternoon. Passes continued to stay crisp. Penalty corner sets continued to produce goals. And a backline that’s benefited with Webb’s return from a hand injury continued to befuddle rushes that entered into the shooting circle.“It’s a lot of growing,” Webb said. “There were a lot of learning opportunities from that game.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIn a 3-1 win over the Big Red (9-6, 3-2 Ivy), these differences came to fruition for a No. 15 Syracuse (11-5, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) program that entered this season coming off its first missed NCAA tournament berth since 2007. Even when the Orange didn’t play to their highest potential, when all aspects of a complete field hockey game didn’t surface at the same time within the 60 minutes of game play, it was still enough.“I think the biggest thing is we finished, and that went well,” Bradley said. “I thought our individual defense was sloppy, and we scored goals and we won.”Early in the season, that wasn’t the case. Syracuse’s offense relied almost solely on freshman Charlotte de Vries, whose 14 goals are three shy of the all-time record for a freshman at SU. If opponents stuck a shadow defender on de Vries, attacks stalled.When Carolin Hoffmann opened the scoring off a penalty stroke only three minutes into the first quarter, an SU offense that generated six penalty corners in the opening frame had already begun to click. She took one step forward and lofted the shot toward the right of the cage, rising above Big Red goalie Maddie Henry. Multiple times, Syracuse and assistant coach Katie Gerzabek utilized fakes to draw fliers off-guard, the origination of SU’s first and second goals. Stopper Tess Queen pushed the insertion pass through a faking Hoffmann and onto the stick of Stephanie Harris further left. As opposed to relying on Roos Weers’ production like last year, or de Vries’ powerful reverse hit like earlier in the season, Harris fired a shot that was redirected in front of the cage and bounced in.“Steph goes down to the other end and works on that corner, I’m glad you were able to execute that,” Bradley said, turning to face the senior at the postgame press conference.Corey Henry | Photo EditorThe Orange continued to press and maintain possession in the Big Red’s end, holding Cornell to four shots the entire game. Even when a penalty corner shot snuck past goalie Sarah Sinck early in the second quarter, the Orange prevented it from sparking a multiple-goal run.When the rain started pouring down onto the field at the start of the second half, chances decreased at both ends, forcing Syracuse’s midfield to create passing lanes and then immediately close those for the Big Red.“I think has been the biggest improvement with us, is the connection and looking for those keys and queues from each other to be able to open the field up,” Bradley said.Before the game, with the National Anthem sounding through the speakers at J.S. Coyne Stadium, SU’s coaching staff stood shoulder-to-shoulder underneath the bench’s roof. All three crossed their hands behind their backs. As speakers blared out the final two lines, associate head coach Allan Law and Bradley turned their heads slightly toward the 21 Syracuse players with interlocked hands swinging up and down. Together, this was the Syracuse roster that was tasked with reversing the trend from last season that involved losing to top-tier opponents and suffocating late in the season — when the Orange lost four consecutive games. “Learning today to play with the people around you — when you play a passing game the way we play, you gotta know how people move, you gotta know how they breathe, you gotta know everything about them,” Bradley said.Two of the seniors honored before the game had arrived the year after the Syracuse field hockey reached a peak of its 47-year existence: a 2015 NCAA Championship. Their freshman season opened with seven straight wins, but the totals plummetted year-by-year, eventually dropping to last season’s 8-8 record. It was the lowest number of wins for the Orange since 2003 and only their second single-digit win season this century.The 2019 campaign has contained microcosms of the issues that plagued last year’s roster, but in Sunday’s game, those didn’t resurface. de Vries, once SU’s lone source of goals, only launched one of her six shots against Cornell on goal. Four others tallied shots, three scored goals and two recorded assists. But, heading into the final week of their regular season, the Orange have pieced together a roster poised to play past the ACC tournament.“You’re playing now and if you win, next game you have one more,” Webb said. Comments Published on October 27, 2019 at 7:21 pm Contact Andrew: arcrane@syr.edu | @CraneAndrewlast_img