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Emma Tyrrell positioned herself on the 8-meter mark for a free position shot with just over a minute left in the second half. As the whistle blew, she drew her stick back and sent a shot flying toward the left side of the net. The dagger found the back of the net to cement Syracuse’s 17-11 win over Florida — and punch a ticket to Syracuse’s first Final Four appearance since 2016.
When Syracuse advanced to the Final Four in 2016, Emily Hawryschuk wasn’t on the team yet — she was still a senior in high school. The No. 4 ranked Orange fell to No. 1 Maryland, 19-9, and haven’t returned to the Final Four since. Now, the Orange are headed to the Final Four without star attack Hawryschuk, one of the best players in program history.
No. 3 Syracuse (16-3, 8-2 Atlantic Coast) faced No. 6 Florida (18-3, 10-0 American Athletic) in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals on Saturday. The Gators entered the game on a 15-game win streak, holding opponents to less than 10 goals in all but two matchups this season. But in the quarterfinals, the Orange notched 17 goals against Florida to advance to the NCAA Tournament semifinals against No. 2 Northwestern.
“We wanted to play Syracuse lacrosse, fulfill our destiny of going to the Final Four,” goalie Asa Goldstock said.
Entering the quarterfinals, Florida ranked second in the nation in scoring defense (6.50 goals per game) and third in scoring offense (17.20 goals per game). The Gators’ offense struck early as Brianna Harris carried the ball off the opening draw into Syracuse’s 8-meter. Harris pivoted toward goal and slammed a left-handed shot past Goldstock for Florida’s first score 20 seconds into the game.
Minutes later, Syracuse found its own rhythm. After recording the Orange’s first goal on a free position, Meaghan Tyrrell shuffled around the right side of the net, running down the clock. Meaghan Tyrrell dodged through the 8-meter, aimed and fired just missing wide. Despite missing the net, Meaghan Tyrrell reset the pace and settled the Orange offense.
“We play better when we focus on our give-and-go offense and utilizing all the players, getting everybody touches, finding the open cutters,” head coach Gary Gait said.
With less than 15 minutes remaining in the first half, Emily Ehle entered the 8-meter. Relaxed in a new rhythm, Ehle raised her head and passed to Sam Swart in front of the net. Swart caught the pass and immediately shot low toward the net, extending Syracuse’s lead, 4-2.
Two years ago, Gait said he wanted to be a “power-four team that competes for championships.” Then, Northwestern eliminated Syracuse from the NCAA Tournament in the quarterfinals. At that time, Meaghan Tyrrell and Megan Carney were freshmen barely breaking onto the scene, and Hawryschuk was ascending to the top, leading the team’s offense.
Now, the Orange are a power-four team and on the same level as Northwestern and North Carolina. They’re onto the Final Four without Hawryschuk and Carney — but rising stars freshman Emma Ward and sophomore Emma Tyrrell have stepped up, launching Syracuse into the power four realm. Syracuse just had to get past No. 6 Florida before officially claiming the power-four final it has foreshadowed all season.
Against Florida, Syracuse played sloppily in the closing minutes of the first half. With over 20 seconds on the clock, Ward collected a pass inside the 12-meter. Ward attempted to find a clear lane, and she sent the ball wide towards the net as she collided with her defender. Seconds later Meaghan Tyrrell cross-checked a Florida defender giving it possession. The Gators went on a 2-0 run to tie the game at 5-5 to end the half.
But Syracuse left the sloppy play in the first half. Two minutes into the last period, Ward received a pass inside the Florida zone from Ehle through the pick-and-roll. She dodged toward the net, winded a shot and shot before two Florida defenders collapsed on her. The ball found the back of the net to give Syracuse a 6-5 lead.
“The adjustment was just do what we asked you to do,” Gait said. “And that’s run our offense and the openings will come. Be patient, and we get clean looks at the goal … Just being patient and trusting in our system. I think that was key.”
After Ward’s goal, Emma Tyrrell took control of the ball, faked a pass to Ehle to get a one-on-one dodge toward the net. With a clear lane toward goal, Emma Tyrrell aimed and fired for her first score of the game — catalyzing Syracuse’s opening second half 5-0 run and a 11-6 lead.
The Orange held a four-goal lead over Florida as Ward collected the ball off the give-and-go motion. She found an open lane and ripped the ball from the left wing and into the back of the net. The Gators responded with two goals of their own, one off the free position, which put them back within three.
Despite the Gators’ two goal comeback attempt, Syracuse’s offense didn’t waver. Swart cut inside the 8-meter, sidestepped left and found the back of the net. Minutes later, Harris received Florida’s fourth yellow card for cross-checking. Ward took advantage of the woman-up opportunity and sent the ball flying into the top right corner of the net, giving Syracuse a 15-10 lead, one that it would sustain for the rest of the game.
“I look at the players that came back for the fifth and sixth year. They were focused and dialed in,” Gait said. “They wanted to get to the Final Four. They wanted to give themselves a chance to win a national championship. And that’s what we’ve done.”
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