One away: Syracuse throttles Virginia to reach national championship game

Kayla Treanor and Alyssa Murray combined for 10 goals to power the Orange in a 16-8 victory.

TOWSON, Md. — Senior attack Alyssa Murray remembers all too well the feeling of losing in the national championship game, as Syracuse did in 2012 to Northwestern. So once the Orange played its way to a third-consecutive championship weekend, she remained more determined than ever to help the team return home with a title.

On Friday, she came one step closer to accomplishing her goal.

"This is what we work for all year long. Now that we’re here … it feels great to be back."
- Alyssa Murray

Murray scored six times to set a school record for career goals in the NCAA tournament and lead second-seeded Syracuse (21-2, 6-1 Atlantic Coast) to a 16-8 thrashing of sixth-seeded Virginia (12-9, 3-4) at Johnny Unitas Stadium. Teammate Kayla Treanor added four tallies to set a school record for goals in a single season (77).

More importantly, though, the Orange will now face top-seeded Maryland on Sunday at 8:30 for that elusive first championship in program history.

"This is what we work for all year long," Murray said. “Now that we’re here…it feels great to be back."

Syracuse came out ready to one-up an 18-14 regular-season victory on Feb. 23, and the one-two punch of Murray and Treanor proved too much for the Cavaliers.

Only 55 seconds into the match, Treanor — angry, perhaps, after Boston College shut her down last weekend — scored the first goal, her 74th of the year. By the end of the first half, she would also dole out three assists.

The Orange expected another dose of double-teams and early slides on both Treanor and Murray, but its offensive success early in the game led the Cavaliers to search for Plan B.

“We were supposed to slide but what they did so well early on in the game was hitting those cutters at the stack,” said Virginia head coach Julie Myers. “It made our middies and our other defenders defending the stack a little gun-shy, a little nervous to leave. They did it early. They got in our head and did just enough to make us hesitate.”

The win was an offensive showcase for the entire team. Though Murray and Treanor totaled 16 points between them, Amy Cross and Kailah Kempney each scored twice. Katie Webster, coming off of a powerhouse performance against Boston College, had one goal.

The statistics suggested Treanor and Murray’s sheer dominance on offense, but the Orange controlled the game on both ends of the field — and UVA had no answer in any aspect of the game. An aggressive SU defense committed four fouls, including a yellow card to Kasey Mock for a check to the head within the first five minutes, but Virginia failed to capitalize on any of its chances.

As a result, the Orange won its fourth straight game against the Cavaliers and punched its ticket to the final game.

“That’s been our plan all year,” SU head coach Gary Gait said. "Hopefully, third time will be the charm (against Maryland)."

Murray was all smiles after the win as she rubbed the eye black smeared across her cheeks and looked ahead to her final game with the Orange.

Said Murray: “We’ve had a record year so far. It would be the icing on the cake to end it with a ring.”

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