North Carolina’s Molly Hendrick has career-best nine-point performance in 18-11 win over Syracuse
Courtesy of the ACC
RICHMOND, Va. — Molly Hendrick’s name echoed from the loud speaker. Seconds after being named to the all-conference tournament team, Hendrick was named the MVP for her career-best performance against Syracuse.
The Orange defense had an answer for almost every offensive weapon thrown at it in the conference title game. But whether it was her scoring or her feeding, there was no solution to the problem that Hendrick posed.
“It doesn’t happen by accident,” UNC head coach Jenny Levy said. “… (Hendrick’s) individual play is why we won an ACC championship.”
Hendrick’s nine-point showing set a career high and was the difference maker in No. 1 seed North Carolina’s (16-2, 6-1 Atlantic Coast) dominant, 18-11 win against No. 2 seed Syracuse (15-6, 5-2) on Sunday afternoon. For the second consecutive year, UNC topped SU in the ACC championship game.
“We needed her to play that way and she did,” Levy said. “It was a great response to other games where she’s marked out.”
In the first half, Syracuse played tight-knit defense, blocking the area in front of goalie Asa Goldstock. Cutting toward the net came with a higher chance at turning the ball over, so Hendrick relied on her quickness to create space for an open look.
After gaining a step on her defender, Hendrick neared the middle of the field. As she caught a feed from over the goal, Hendrick jumped up in the air and, in one swift motion, shot the ball — scoring UNC’s fourth straight and her second of the afternoon. Even with a Syracuse stick near her face, she managed to finish the play.
“She was finding the gap on the elbow,” SU head coach Gary Gait said, “and stepping in and creating some quality opportunities.”
Other times, Hendrick created offense entirely on her own. Playing help defense, Hendrick blocked a pass from SU’s Mary Rahal. She picked up the ground ball and charged toward the net. The Orange knocked the ball loose, but by then, Goldstock had shoved Hendrick. A free-position shot with an empty net led to her hat trick.
A focus toward Hendrick in the second half left the senior scoreless for over the first 15 minutes. Syracuse slid more at her, making Hendrick facilitate the offense from behind the net. That didn’t take Hendrick out of her comfort zone — and played right into North Carolina’s halftime adjustments.
“We felt like our cutters in the interior were open,” Levy said. “We just needed to time it up a little better with our feeders.”
To open up the second half, Hendrick found an open cutter from behind the net. Syracuse struck back with a quick run to lead by two. So naturally, Hendrick attacked.
But this time Syracuse’s defense was more hole-ridden than before. The passes in front of the goal were no longer blocked. Cutters found their open lanes, and Hendrick began to take on defenders 1-on-1.
After stopping a Syracuse clear attempt, the ball ended up in Hendrick’s stick. She drove toward the side of the net and spun, beating her defender and shooting low past Goldstock.
“When a player gets hot, they’re gonna keep taking it to the net,” Syracuse senior attack Devon Parker. “She knew she was making her shots and she kept taking them.”
One UNC goal later, she replicated the spin move while double-teamed. Even with an increased focus, Hendrick attacked — using dodges and spins to create enough separation to let off a shot — even if that meant being shoved to the ground after.
“They didn’t change,” Hendrick said. “… We just kept chipping away at it and being patient.”
North Carolina chipped away at the Syracuse team that played defense for nearly the entire second half — save for a five minute 5-0 run.
And the defense being tired is all Hendrick needed for a career day.
Published on April 30, 2017 at 7:40 pm