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After scoring her 50th goal of the season, Meaghan Tyrrell had a chance to score Syracuse’s 12th goal of the afternoon. She stood at the far end of UNC’s zone when she started to rush forward toward the net. As she had done for most of the day, Emma Trenchard guarded Meaghan, who now turned, looking for a pass.
With Meaghan’s head now turned, Emily Nalls poked at her stick and the ball popped out. Meaghan and three North Carolina defenders tried to scramble for the ball, but the Orange’s top scorer was boxed out, and Brooklyn Walker-Welch collected the ball to give the Tar Heels possession.
The Orange only had 11 turnovers Saturday — tied for their third fewest in a single game this season — but four of them came in the fourth quarter, killing crucial chances for SU and giving the Tar Heels more time with the ball.
Those turnovers stalled No. 4 Syracuse (10-3, 5-1 Atlantic Coast) offense in a 14-12 loss to No. 1 North Carolina (13-0, 6-0 ACC). The Orange, who had struggled to score against the Tar Heels in recent seasons, went toe-to-toe with the nation’s top ranked team in the first half. But in the final 30 minutes of play, UNC outscored Syracuse 7-5, including a four-goal run in the third quarter.
After Meaghan scored the first goal of the game less than a minute in, the Orange were held silent. UNC didn’t let SU cut into the arc by clogging up passing and scoring lanes. In the first 15 minutes, there was constant pressure on any shot the Orange took, and as a result, it presented UNC with an early lead.
While the Tar Heels were at first successful at stopping the Orange, SU’s top players started to make an impact. Head coach Kayla Treanor said getting players in isolation was a part of the game plan going into the matchup. It was something that worked with two minutes left in the quarter, where Meaghan beat Trenchard and scored on a soft shot that found the hole left by goalkeeper Taylor Moreno. Then in the last minute of the quarter, Meaghan got a step on Trenchard in isolation and scored on another soft shot into the left side of the net to tie the game at four.
Walker-Welch used consistent press and multiple shoves to slow down Megan Carney, though. With under nine minutes left in the first half, Carney finally got the better of Walker-Welch, scoring her only goal of the day. The star senior’s first-quarter play helped the Orange stay alive while the Tar Heels continued to counter SU’s scores. Near the end of the second half, Natalie Smith beat Olivia Dirks with two quick moves down the right side of the arc and scored her second goal of the afternoon.
But Carney’s success was short-lived as a lower-body injury that has kept her off the field for the Orange’s last two games returned, affecting her play. Near the end of the half, Carney came to the sidelines limping and crouching down in pain. She received pats and hugs from players and coaches, and she could only watch the remainder of the game with ice on her left knee.
With Carney out, the Tar Heels outscored the Orange by three over the next 17 minutes. While Olivia Adamson notched a goal quickly out of the half, the Tar Heels began to take control soon after with the four-goal run.
Nalls ended Syracuse’s short-lived lead by collecting the rebound off a free-position attempt and scoring on a shot while falling down. Then, Caitlyn Wurzburger sent a lob pass over the net to Scottie Rose Growney, who scored on the slamming shot. Jamie Ortega also notched back-to-back goals, including one where she curled from behind the net, made a spin and breezed easily past the SU defense.
“That (four-goal) run was really the only run of the game,” Treanor said. “We had to climb back from that and that was a huge momentum shift.”
While Sam Swart and Adamson scored to cut the Tar Heels’ lead to just one, Syracuse missed crucial opportunities. With five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Maddy Baxter generated contact from Ally Mastroianni and earned a free-position chance. Baxter rushed toward Moreno and had two defenders pressuring her. But with a move of her stick, Baxter was called for a foul and the Orange whiffed on the opportunity.
UNC continued to solidify its lead in the final seconds of the third quarter. Wurzburger scored on a shot that hit off the top left of the post to give North Carolina a multi-goal lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Orange tied the number of shots UNC took in the fourth quarter, but they struggled to create a run. Not even a minute after her first turnover of the quarter, Meaghan made another mistake. She collected a loose ground ball on the sidelines and sprinted up the field. But facing some pressure, Meaghan’s pass to Swart went too long and UNC’s Julia Dorsey collected the ball.
Along with turnovers like Meaghan’s, SU also missed on shots. Midway through the quarter, Hawryschuk faced too much pressure and her shot went wide. Even though Smith completed her hat trick to make the score 13-12, missed shots came back to hurt the Orange as they finished with 32 missed opportunities.
Then, Ortega emerged once again to solidify the Tar Heels’ lead with her 46th goal of the season. Ortega curled around the net and into the 8-meter and fired a hard shot that beat Kimber Hower to cement Syracuse’s first conference loss.
“In the first half we outshot them 22-11,” Treanor said. “We’re getting lots of shots off. We just go to bury them.”
The post 2nd-half play, missed chances cost No. 4 SU shot at taking down No. 1 UNC in 14-12 loss appeared first on The Daily Orange.