Cardiac 'Cuse: Orange field hockey beats UNC in penalty strokes, reaches title game

Alyssa Manley's two stroke conversions vault SU to its first national final in program history.

Fourth-seeded Syracuse knocked off Atlantic Coast Conference rival and No. 1-ranked North Carolina 3-2 in a stroke-off, Friday to advance to its first-ever NCAA title game. 

“Speechless,” SU head coach Ange Bradley said. “I want to thank Maryland for hosting the Final Four, and Carolina and the ACC. That was an amazing game for both teams… competitive to the very end, and I’m happy we were able to get the result and advance.” 

Junior midfielder Alyssa Manley scored the game-winning goal during the sudden victory stroke-off after two scoreless 15-minute overtime periods. 

“I just knew that for the team… we just work so hard, and that I just had to get it in,” Manley said. 

It was a thrilling end for two powerhouses that battled more than 100 minutes in frigid 36-degree weather. 

UNC had beaten Syracuse, 3-0, during the regular season, and the Orange won, 3-2, in overtime in the ACC tournament. 

“We have similar styles. We had a really great match two weeks ago, and that’s the game,” Bradley said. “You play high-tempo. There’s a lot of risk and a lot of reward. Just two teams battling back and forth.” 


UNC (19-4) scored first when Emma Bozek scored off a penalty corner 15 minutes into the first half. 

Syracuse (18-5) evened the score with two minutes left before halftime, as Emma Russell poked home a rebound off UNC goalkeeper Shannon Johnson’s pads. 

The Orange took its first lead of the game after Manley stole the ball from UNC at the top of the Syracuse circle found Lieke Visser, who buried it in the 47th minute. 

It appeared the Orange would win in regulation, but with only five minutes remaining in the game and the Tar Heel goalie pulled, UNC’s Nina Notman scored off a penalty corner to send the game into overtime. 


Despite outshooting SU 7-2 in the two 15-minute overtime periods and having a one-player advantage for five minutes due to an SU yellow card, the Tar Heels couldn’t put the game away. 

“Congratulations to Syracuse. I thought that was a tough game by two really good teams,” UNC head coach Karen Shelton said. “I thought that Syracuse had the better of the regulation, but I think we kind of dominated the overtime. So it was a bit disappointing that we couldn’t get one in the overtime period, especially when we were man-up for five minutes”

The Stroke-Off 

In a stroke-off, each team selects five players to take a moving stroke, or breakaway opportunity, against the opposing team’s goalie. If the attacking player doesn’t score after eight seconds, or if the ball is knocked out of the circle or the field of play, the attempt is over. If the score is still tied after all ten players take their moving stroke, the game goes into a sudden-victory stroke-off. 

Both the Orange and the Tar Heels had three of four shooters convert. But when Russell couldn’t give the Orange a 4-3 advantage in the final round, the stroke-off was extended. 

Sudden-Victory Stroke-Off 

UNC went first, but SU goalkeeper Jess Jecko blocked Emily Wold’s attempt. 

Manley was next, and with some tricky stick work, she forced the UNC keeper to go right. 

But Manley pulled left, buried the shot and cemented SU’s spot in the title game. 

“(Manley)’s smart, and I think she’s an elite player, and to be able to score on the running strokes twice in overtime was pretty special,” Bradley said. 

Jecko finished with five saves, including the game-changer against Wold. 

“In the overtime, (Jecko) had some spectacular saves and her running strokes were fabulous,” Bradley said. “We’ve been practicing that quite a bit the last two weeks.” 

Syracuse and North Carolina each had seven penalty corners, and the Orange outshot the Tar Heels, 17-16. 

“I knew today was going to be a really tough game, but when you get to this stage of the competition, it’s always going to be a really tough game no matter who you’re playing,” Russell said. “UNC is a fantastic team, and it was a huge day for us today. 

“Obviously, we are excited but we’re not satisfied yet, and I think that’s really important that we realize that yes, we’ve made history, but we want to keep going.” 

The Title Game 

Syracuse will battle former Big East rival and defending national champion Connecticut (19-3) Sunday in College Park, Maryland, at 1 p.m. 

Third-seeded UConn defeated No. 12 Albany, 1-0, to advance to the title game. 

“I think it’s great to resume the matchup, and we have great respect for Syracuse,” UConn head coach Nancy Stevens said. 

The last time the two teams met, the Huskies defeated the Orange, 4-3, in the Big East tournament final in 2012.

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.