No. 11 Syracuse outlasts No. 15 Virginia Tech, 12-11, without top scoring threat
Sabrina Koenig | Staff Photographer
Mary Rahal pushed towards the net looking to win the game for Syracuse. Before she got a shot off, Virginia Tech’s Abby Wilson extended her stick toward Rahal’s but missed. Rahal dropped to the ground clutching her head. The referee’s whistle blew and Rahal had a free position shot.
But Rahal had already failed to beat Hokie goalie Meagh Graham twice before on free position shots. She didn’t even test Graham on the first and missed high. And, minutes before her shot to win, she committed the turnover that allowed VT to tie the game.
Neena Merola couldn’t watch. As Rahal readied, the SU midfielder stared at the team bench and waited. The whistle blew and Rahal swung her stick high and shot the ball low. It bounced once and scooted past Graham. Rahal found redemption, and Merola finally turned at the sound of victory all around her.
Rahal’s game-winner delivered the knockout punch as No. 11 Syracuse (11-4, 4-1 Atlantic Coast) outlasted No. 15 Virginia Tech (11-5, 2-3 ACC), 12-11, on Sunday in overtime at SU Soccer Stadium. The Orange’s offense managed seven second-half goals against the sixth-best defense in the country without Nicole Levy and her 36 points. The sophomore’s lower body injury kept her out of the matchup but it didn’t matter. Freshman Emily Hawryschuk led the way for the Orange, scoring five goals and adding an assist.
“They played the second half well and it really came together,” SU head coach Gary Gait said. “We saw some chemistry there. They really did come through in the second half. The attackers carried us.”
Seventy-eight seconds into the game, attack Devon Parker opened the scoring on senior day. Half a minute later, junior attack Alie Jimerson scored in her first start of the season and SU jumped out two a two-goal lead. Then, though, the Virginia Tech defense clamped down to earn its rank as the nation’s sixth-best scoring defense. In the first half, even though the Orange led the draw control 8-3, the Hokies forced 13 Orange turnovers. Gait’s team only scored two more goals and trailed 6-4 at the break.
“You can’t just decide when you’re going to turn it on and off,” Gait said. “That’s the message to this team.”
Even a returning Taylor Gait failed to jumpstart a dormant SU offense. Playing for the first time in six games, the redshirt-junior’s visible slowness showed she wasn’t at 100 percent.
To start the second half, Gait walked out on the field to talk to his attack. Jimerson, Donahue and Parker watched and listened as he mimicked stick movements and preached ball movement.
After Virginia Tech beat SU goalie Bri Stahrr, who replaced starter Asa Goldstock to start the half, the Orange trailed 7-4. Syracuse faced top defenses before VT but was 0-3 against top-30 defenses before Sunday. In a 4:28 span, Syracuse relied on its top offensive weapons to fight back.
“In the second half,” Parker said, “we were focusing more on our offense than their defense.”
Donahue’s weak shot bounced and made it 7-5. Hawrsychuk dashed towards Graham, faked, and cut the lead to one. After a quick VT response, Hawryshuk scored again. The Victor, New York, native muscled her way in front of the net and burst through two defenders. Rahal knocked in a low shot to tie the game at eight and foreshadowed her game-winner. During the run, the SU bench came alive. Paige Rodgers cartwheeled near the SU bench as Levy stood on the sidelines and spit sunflower seeds onto the field where she could not play.
“The team stepped up all across the field,” Hawryschuk said. “It was awesome.”
Exactly one year ago, Syracuse cruised by Virginia Tech in Blacksburg by 14 goals. Last year, Levy scored twice against the Hokies and this Sunday, she didn’t. Last year, Donahue netted four goals and Sunday Hawryschuk notched five. Winning for an eighth time in as many tries looked a little different, but it ended all the same.
Published on April 9, 2017 at 8:06 pm