Orange win second in a row

Despite the soggy weather, the Orange, led by senior Alyscha Mottershead, defeated Seton Hall 3-1.

Alyscha Mottershead had just seen Syracuse’s women’s soccer team lose a lead to visiting Seton Hall, despite a superbly placed assist to take the lead in the 24th minute.

The senior midfielder wasn’t about to let it happen again.

Mottershead tallied a goal and an assist, including the game-winner in the 38th minute, to help the Orange down the Pirates, 3-1 on Friday at SU Soccer Stadium.

The fourth-year veteran headed a cross into the box that was parried down by Seton Hall goalkeeper Alyssa Kelly with a point-blank reflex save. But the ball dropped to Mottershead’s feet, and the Brampton, Ontario-native pounced on the ball to notch her third goal of the year for a lead the Orange (6-4-2, 3-1-1 Big East) wouldn’t give up again.

“I just keep following up,” Mottershead said. “Especially in these conditions, where it’s raining, you know that the keeper is going to have to make a difficult save. Luckily for me, I just followed it up knowing or expecting the ball to come to me, and I put it in the net.”

Syracuse’s offense controlled the tempo early, going on to outshoot the Pirates, 14-7, with a 9-3 advantage in shots on goal.

The Orange spent nearly the entirety of the second half in Seton Hall’s defensive half, pounding away at a damp and slippery ball in the middle of a misty rain storm.

Syracuse coach Phil Wheddon gave the team a must-win mentality, even with three of the team’s remaining five games at home.

“Those were exactly the words I used. I told the team this is a must-win game,” Wheddon said. “We’re at home, we have a good crowd, the stadium looked great. This match was a must-win, as will be Sunday.”

The home points come at a crucial time for Syracuse, which put together its first two-match win streak of the year, following up on a 1-0 win at Cincinnati on Sept. 23.

“It puts a little bit of pressure on us, but he’s been doing it all season, so we come to expect it now,” Mottershead said of the must-win mentality. “In the Big East, every game is a must-win game. Pressure just comes with it.”

Jenna Rickan gave the Orange an early lead 24 minutes into the match, charging an empty net to head home Mottershead’s short chip into the back of the net. It was the senior’s second goal of 2012.

But the Pirates (6-7, 1-4) would come back, tying the game on Katie Ritter’s 33rd minute strike to the far post. After the goal, Syracuse’s defense locked down to only allow two shots on goal in the second half, which goalkeeper Brittany Anghel easily pushed aside.

“It was definitely our coach,” junior defender Kayla Afonso said. “He definitely got us into the game. In the first half, we weren’t playing the game we usually played. He got down hard on us, and we got back up.”

The defense really came to play a halftime talk by Wheddon.

“Our defense has been good all year, I think,” he said. “I would love to see a much more complete game. We dropped back, gave them a little too much space to play in the first half. Once we condensed the field a bit, we gave them less space to play, and limited them to fewer shots.”

Freshman Jackie Firenze sealed the game after halftime, going up for a challenged header on frame to redirect Erin Simon’s perfect cross 12 minutes into the second half.

Even with the three points, Wheddon said his team has plenty it can do to improve.

“These conditions make things a little bit difficult, but it’s the same for both teams. I don’t think that we played very well tonight,” he added. “I don’t think that we played our brand of soccer, especially in the first half. I was very disappointed in the way we played. We created a lot of opportunities. I would like to see us possess the ball a little more.”

The Pirates have now dropped seven of their last eight, and were shut out five times in that stretch.

The Orange will conclude their two-game homestand Sunday at 1 p.m. against Rutgers.

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