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PRINCETON, N.J. — Meaghan Tyrrell cut to the net with just under a minute left in the game, earning a free position shot after beating defender Julia Rigolizz. Meaghan, already with her momentum going forward, launched a shot but it was saved by Fairfield goalie Olivia Conquest.
After Fairfield cleared the ball and called a timeout, Syracuse mounted high pressure and took 20 seconds off the clock by pressuring Conquest when she had the ball. However, Conquest rolled the ball to Rigolizzo, who then drew Sarah Cooper up high after Olivia Adamson couldn’t catch her.
The Stags made two passes to get from half field to the goal in an instant, and Amanda Kozak had a chance to score and send the game to overtime.
But her shot missed, and SU advanced in the NCAA tournament despite a poor performance throughout the game. Syracuse (14-5, 6-2 Atlantic Coast), who came off of a 18-14 upset loss against in the opening rounds of the ACC tournament, escaped the opening round with a 12-11 win against Fairfield (13-7, 5-3 Metro Atlantic Athletic) thanks to five goals from Olivia Adamson.
“It was a do-or-die moment for the team and they dug in and did what they needed to do,” head coach Kayla Treanor said. “Really lucky for us that we were able to walk away with the win.”
Things looked promising to open the game when Cooper picked up the opening draw control. Syracuse then set up into its traditional weave offense before Megan Carney tossed the ball to Adamson and set a pick for her right at the top of the eight-meter arc. Adamson took advantage and brushed her right shoulder with Carney’s left to leave no space for the Fairfield defender trailing her to get in between, and she rocketed a shot to put the Orange up 1-0.
Fairfield had a chance to return the goal after intercepting a pass from Kate Mashewske right after she won the draw, but the Stags turned it over and Syracuse capitalized. This time, Adamson was on the passing end and sent a low pass to a cutting Sam Swart who had two defenders around her. Swart momentarily lost the ball cutting right in front of the goal, but she scooped it up and tossed it in from low to put Syracuse up 2-0.
The hot start was put to an end quickly, and on the next possession Syracuse struggled to get a goal after Emily Hawryschuk and Natalie Smith each missed a shot, which would be a microcosm for most of the first quarter.
After Fairfield successfully cleared the ball, Katie Goodale fouled Libby Rowe when she was attacking the net, and Rowe had no problem scoring the goal. A few possessions later, Maggie Fort took a quick pass deep within the eight-meter arc for Fairfield and put the ball right past Kimber Hower to tie the game at 2-2 midway through the first quarter.
Two minutes later, Fairfield scored its third goal in the row. Rowe got the ball at the top of the eight-meter arc and after a miscommunication between Goodale and Jenny Markey, the two never fully picked her up after a pick and she left them both in the dust and had an open shot. She fired it into the back of the net.
For the next seven minutes, Syracuse struggled to get anything going on offense and was constantly hounded by the Fairfield defense. On the ensuing possession after Fairfield scored, Syracuse had four different chances to score a goal but missed every shot.
Syracuse finally got a goal from Meaghan, who isolated Danielle Santora at the top of the arc and made a dodge to the right before firing off a shot from distance and tying the game.
Less than a minute later, Syracuse reclaimed the lead after Hower made a free position save and Adamson scored to make it 4-3. Syracuse then quickly transitioned, and a quick string of passes from Hawryschuk to Carney on the baseline to a cutting Adamson led to a goal.
Still, Fairfield wouldn’t go away and Meaghan got a yellow card to give Fairfield a man-up opportunity. As a result, Syracuse gave up a shooting space violation, which Kozak converted with just under nine minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Hawryschuk, who had missed multiple shots in the first quarter and had multiple turnovers throughout the game, got a free position opportunity one minute later. Hawryschuk did her typical wind up and ran towards the goal, but Conquest blocked her shot. However, Hawryschuk got the ball again after Syracuse recovered possession, and this time she bulldozed her way through two Fairfield defenders to put Syracuse back up 5-4.
Meaghan added to Syracuse’s lead with an unassisted goal of her own, and she took the ball from the out of bounds line behind the net and looped all the way to the front of the net and scored in Meaghan-like-fashion to put Syracuse up two goals.
Fairfield returned with a goal of its own with under three minutes remaining, but another Hawryschuk goal the following possession kept the distance between the two teams.
With the clock running down in the first half and Syracuse with the ball right around Fairfield’s net, Adamson caught the ball. The Stags knew she was going to shoot, so Fort, Kelly Horning, and Melissa Taggert began to swarm her on the left side right around the eight-meter mark.
Adamson wasn’t fazed though, and she patiently held on to the ball and waited for her moment to attack. When she noticed a gap between the three, she isolated Fort, and dodged to the right and the sent the ball right into the net and behind Conquest.
The Syracuse bench was pumped up, and after Adamson’s third goal to help Syracuse escape an otherwise dismal half with an 8-5 lead, they all started to chant “We love freshmen” as a way to thank her for bailing them out.
“Without Olivia I don’t think we win today,” head coach Kayla Treanor said. “She stepped up in a big moment and could just finish.”
In the third quarter, Markey opened up the scoring when she backed down Fort, fake-turned to her left shoulder and then turned right, putting Fort on the ground, leaving her with an open shot to give SU a four-goal lead.
After Fairfield scored a goal to get it to 9-6, both teams couldn’t put together successful offensive plays and turned the ball over multiple times. In one instance, SU turned the ball over three offensive possessions in a row, which left Swart and Meaghan visibly frustrated.
As she did at the end of the second quarter, Olivia Adamson helped bail the team out of its sloppy play and ended the quarter with two straight goals. On the first, Tyrrell had a one-on-one with her defender in the right corner, but noticed a cutting Adamson and passed it to her who scored from point blank range.
On the second goal, Adamson attempted to pick up a ground ball but was knocked to the ground by a Fairfield player, earning a shooting space violation. Adamson got up despite the blow, gathered her composure, and ran straight to the goal for her fifth score of the night, putting Syracuse up 11-6. After she scored, she threw down her stick and clenched both her fists yelling “Let’s go!” as the team huddled around her.
In the fourth quarter, despite almost blowing the lead, Syracuse did just enough to keep it for the win. Even when Hawryschuk, Meaghan, Carney and Swart, the core of the team, weren’t at their best, SU was able to escape. Had it not been for Adamson’s performance in the first three quarters, SU, who went a putrid 12-41 shooting, might have been upset for the second game in a row.
“If I had a good day, it’s going to be someone else tomorrow,” Adamson said. “Just being able to make sure we have seven threats so nobody can guard us and we can make the championship.”
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