No. 8 Syracuse uses big 2nd-half run, low shooting to edge No. 4 Florida, 17-15

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 7, 2018 at 4:53 pm Contact Billy: wmheyen@syr.edu | @Wheyen3 Syracuse entered Wednesday’s game against Florida leading the country in scoring offense at 18.75 goals per game. Florida was only allowing 11.20 goals per game. Something had to give.Florida’s defense yielded, and Syracuse didn’t stop scoring until the game was out of reach. Even though the Gators came out of the gates strong and hung tight in the first half with goals of their own, it was the Orange’s offense that proved to be enough in the Carrier Dome.Against No. 4 UF (4-2), SU’s (4-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) offense boosted it to avoid a losing streak and pick up a 17-15 win. The offensive outburst was keyed by a 7-0 run in the middle of the second half. After falling to then-No. 11 Virginia on Sunday, SU bounced back against UF by beating Florida’s star goalie Haley Hicklen, again and again. “Our offense did what they needed to do,” SU head coach Gary Gait said. “They kept scoring goals.”Syracuse emerged from the first half up 9-8 after a back and forth affair. Of those nine SU goals in the first half hour, six came from low shots on Hicklen, who had saved 16 shots in an upset of now-No. 3 North Carolina on Sunday. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMidway through the first half, SU’s leading goal-scorer last season Riley Donahue spun to her right and burned her defender. No defender stood in front of her, but to shoot from her stronger left side, she’d have to be creative. No problem.Donahue brought the head of the stick down toward her left ankle and flicked the ball towards the cage. It went right between Hicklen’s legs and into the back of the net, the most eye-catching of six goals that were too low for the UF goalie to stop in the first half.“We definitely watched film on (Hicklen),” SU’s Nicole Levy said. “But I feel like when you’re in tight on someone, it’s easier to just hitch high and put it low.”The scoring frenzy was stunted for the final eight minutes of the first half. After a Gators goal 33 seconds into the second half tied the game at 9-apiece, it would be all Syracuse until it was too late.Sam Swart started the second-half SU scoring much like she did on a first-half goal of hers. She set up on the right wing, hopped up and down a few times and then burst to her stronger left side. After blowing by her defender, she whipped a shot from her left hip below the stick of Hicklen and into the net for a hat trick.“I feel like our passing is so fast around in a circle, the defense couldn’t keep up,” Swart said. “… We just continue, continue, continue.”A few minutes after Swart’s goal, Emily Hawryschuk was fouled and got a free-position shot from the left slot. She wound up and fired a low shot from her hip that skidded off the ground and past Hicklen’s right hip, putting Syracuse up two.The Orange run was far from over. Three quick goals, either in transition or on easy finishes in front of the cage, brought the run to five-straight goals. Then, Donahue went low again. Twice more.Hicklen entered Wednesday’s contest ranked third in the country in saves per game (13.0) and fifth in save percentage (54.6). But besides a few minutes she sat out in the first half, the Orange had her number all game long. The recipe, as it was on SU’s sixth-straight goal in the second half, never wavered from finding the bottom of the net. It worked and Donahue’s simple finish below Hicklen’s stick made it 15-9 with fewer than 15 minutes left.Less than two minutes later, Donahue completed her shooting-low hat trick. Alie Jimerson, stationed behind the net, picked Donahue out cutting right down the center of the field, who scooped the ball low and by Hicklen’s left ankle for an easy finish. The Orange had scored seven straight.“I think that for that 7-0 run, we ran them off the field in the midfield,” Gait said, “and really took advantage of our two-line midfield system, and I think it showed.”The run ended with a Shayna Pirreca goal with 12:30 remaining. But that wouldn’t end up mattering. Syracuse’s final goal of the game came from its game-leader, Levy, and it featured one more low finish.Set up at the X behind the net with about eight minutes left, Levy was marked tightly. She spun once but didn’t gain an edge. She spun again, still no edge. So she just used a quick first step to her right, wrapped around the cage and shot between Hicklen’s legs. The Florida goalie still didn’t have an answer for that spot, and although Syracuse didn’t beat her again, the Orange had beaten her low a few too many times for the Gators to hang.Florida scored five goals in the closing minutes to keep the game within reach and keep Syracuse on edge. But the Gators’ comeback wasn’t enough to overcome a seven-goal deficit.“I was very proud of our team how they responded throughout the game,” Gait said. “We didn’t allow them to make their run until the very end.”After Tuesday’s practice, Syracuse had gathered in a circle near one of the end zones on the Carrier Dome turf. Gait implored his players to get a good night’s sleep and to relax their minds before Wednesday’s game against Florida. His final message was simple.“Great opportunity to get back to where we were a few days ago,” Gait told his team.Syracuse took advantage of the opportunity. Behind an offense that just keeps scoring, the Orange is back where it wants to be. Commentslast_img

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