No. 3 seed Syracuse falls in quarterfinals of NCAA tournament in overtime to Connecticut
Sam Ogozalek |
Nijsje Venrooy fell to her knees, with her head on the ground and her hands wiping away the tears in her eyes. Serra Degnan lay on her back, in front of the goal, hands above her head, stick beside her. Waiting to re-enter the game, Lies Lagerweij sunk to her seat. She dropped her stick and put her arms around her knees, with Emma Lamison coming to comfort her.
While No. 3 seed Syracuse (15-4, 4-2 Atlantic Coast) players sat in shock of what they had witnessed, the No. 6 Connecticut (22-1, 7-0) bench rushed the field. The players and coaches mobbed defender Charlotte Veitner, who in double overtime led her team to the Final Four and ended the reign of the defending national champions.
“I can’t really put it into words,” Veitner said. “We knew we were not going to lose the game.”
On Sunday, the Huskies came into J.S. Coyne Stadium and defeated Syracuse 3-2 in double overtime to advance to the Final Four for the fourth consecutive year. The Huskies prevented the Orange from reaching its fourth-straight Final Four.
In 2014, UConn defeated the Orange in the national championship. In 2015, Syracuse defeated the Huskies in the Final Four before defeating North Carolina to win the national championship. Now in 2016, the Huskies are moving on after defeating Syracuse in the quarterfinal.
“You had the past two national champions playing today,” UConn head coach Nancy Stevens said. “It felt like a Final Four game.”
The seniors finished their careers with a winning percentage of 82.4 percent and as one of only five classes in Syracuse history to finish with 70 wins.
Most of the game, though, was one-sided. Heading into the final five minutes of regulation, with UConn leading 2-1, the Huskies had limited the Orange to only two shots and two corners.
But with four minutes left in regulation, after failing to capitalize with a two-person advantage only minutes before, the Orange got one more chance to tie the game with a penalty corner.
Off of the Venrooy insert, Roos Weers wound up and sent a rocket underneath UConn goalkeeper Nina Klein to tie the game at 2. Weers turned and spiked her stick. Pushing her fists down, she yelled to the crowd. Laura Hurff and Lagerweij threw their sticks down and jumped on Weers.
Syracuse clawed its way back into the game after looking disheveled through the first hour. The team and the stadium had new life. One minute later, UConn’s Barbara Hoogen earned a 10-minute yellow card, forcing UConn to play a player down for the final three minutes of regulation and the first seven minutes of overtime.
The advantage was eerily similar to its opening ACC tournament game against Wake Forest. After trailing the Orange nearly all of regulation, SU forced its way back in and had an opportunity to win. The Demon Deacons, however, won 4-3 in overtime to eliminate SU from the ACC tournament. All three SU losses coming into the game came in overtime.
During the first overtime period, the Orange dominated. With Connecticut playing one player down, SU head coach Ange Bradley moved Lagerweij to forward. SU recorded five shots to UConn’s one. The Orange controlled possession and tempo. On any UConn possession, the Huskies stalled to get back to full force.
Stevens called a timeout once her team regained full strength, and the Huskies stalled for the remainder of the period, waiting for the second overtime.
The second overtime was back-and-forth. With only seven players on the field for each team, there were constant long passes and counterattacks. The game moved quickly and Syracuse struggled to keep pace. Lagerweij and Emma Lamison substituted in and out for each other because Lagerweij was gassed, and Bradley tried finding some remaining life in her offense.
Five minutes into overtime, and SU was on the attack. The ball was flying across the field, with Liz Sack and Lamison passing back and forth, moving toward the UConn net. But an interception by UConn sent the ball to the right side of the field.
Connecticut’s Amanda Collins received a pass on the right side of midfield and sprinted down the side. She sent a long, quick ball ahead for Veitner, UConn’s all-time leading scorer. Veitner turned over her left shoulder to the end line. She brought it back to the left side of her body, shielding SU defenders on her right. She made it back into the middle of the arc, and sent a roller to the left corner, past SU goalkeeper Regan Spencer, and into the back of the net.
Spencer dropped to her knees. Heads lining the entire SU sideline fell. Emma Tufts, who was getting ready to sub back in, sprinted over to her fallen goalkeeper.
Erin Gillingham walked over to assistant coach Tara Zollinger and put her head against her chest. Tears dripped down the junior’s red face.
Veitner was at the bottom of a pile of her entire team, but she came out on top, picking up Hoogen as they ran toward their coaches.
“The first thing I thought of is our seniors,” Lagerweij said. “This was their last game and we couldn’t give them another game. That’s really tough.”
A little girl in the stands began to cry. Her father picked her up, holding her close.
“It’s OK,” he said. “They gave it all they had.”
Published on November 13, 2016 at 8:37 pm
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