May 23, 2014

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Murray, Treanor Propel Syracuse to NCAA Final

by Paul Ohanian | LaxMagazine.com | May Madness Home

In-Game Blog Replay

 

Senior attacker and Tewaaraton Award finalist Alyssa Murray had a season-high nine points in Syracuse's 16-8 NCAA semifinal victory Friday over Virginia. (Greg Wall)

Photo Gallery: Orange Rout Virginia to Advance

TOWSON, Md. – When the best players play their best, their team wins. It was that simple Friday, as the dynamic duo of Alyssa Murray and Kayla Treanor combined for 10 goals and six assists to lead second-seeded Syracuse to a convincing 16-8 win over sixth-seeded Virginia in the NCAA women's lacrosse semifinals at Towson.

The Orange, which added to its school record for wins by improving to 21-2, advanced to Sunday's national championship game for the second time in program history. Syracuse will face top-seeded Maryland, which handed the Orange its only two losses of the season.

Murray and Treanor had a hand in 14 of their team's 16 goals, with Virginia's decision to try to defend them 1-on-1, without sliding or double-teaming, providing ample opportunity for the two Tewaaraton Award finalists to either score on isolations or set up teammates for easy shots. Syracuse built early leads of 3-0 and 6-1 and never looked back in beating Virginia for the second time this season.

"We were a little surprised that they didn't double or go quick," Orange coach Gary Gait said. "Our focus was very good right from the beginning and our execution was exceptional. We adapted to the way they were playing defense."

Treanor, marked for most of the game by Virginia's standout junior defender Morgan Stephens, scored an unassisted goal less than a minute into the game, then assisted on Syracuse's next two goals as the Orange built a 3-0 lead in the opening 10 minutes.

The first of three goals by Virginia's Kelly Boyd put the Cavaliers on the board at 19:28, but Syracuse answered with another three-goal run, fueled by two goals and an assist by Murray. The senior finished the game with a season-high nine points on six goals and three assists.

"Not having a double is something we haven't seen in a while," Murray said. "Treanor and I know we can work well with each other when they're not doing that. We know we can use each other."

Boyd's second of the game stopped the bleeding briefly for the Cavaliers, pulling them to within 6-2 at 5:12, but another three-goal Syracuse run pushed the lead to 9-2 before Virginia's Maddy Keeshan scored with one second left before halftime.

While Treanor and Murray received most of the credit for the big first half, Gait was quick to credit his senior-dominated defense —  led by Kasey Mock, Liz Harbeson and Natalie Glanell —  for their performance.

"They get after you and put the pressure on," Gait said. "Having the defense get the ball back for you is huge. Those are momentum swings. That happened several times in the first half. Holding them to three goals in a half is exceptional."

Syracuse Postgame Press Conference

Treanor opened the second half with her second goal of the game, assisted by Murray at 26:33, before a brief rally provided the Cavaliers a glimmer of hope. Led by two goals from Keeshan, Virginia scored three of the next four over a span of nine minutes to pull to within 11-6 with 16:21 remaining.

But Murray answered, once again, netting her fifth and sixthgoals of the game, sandwiched around Treanor's fourth, to jumpstart a 5-0 Orange run and build the lead to 16-6 with 3:17 remaining.

"We executed really well today. Our offense played really well and just finished the ball," said Treanor, the nation's top scorer who tallied seven points (four goals, three assists) to give her 114 on the season.

Virginia coach Julie Myers praised Syracuse's execution.

"Admittedly, we didn't play great today," she said, "but you have to give Syracuse the credit. They made it hard for us to find our rhythm. Their best players were impossible to stop. They played great."

Murray, who will finish her career ranked second on Syracuse's all-time scoring list, raised her career total to 358 points while also becoming the first player in school history to record 100 points in a season three times. She said playing a difficult schedule throughout the season helped prepare the Orange for another championship run.

Syracuse has been to the final four five times in the last seven years. The Orange lost to Northwestern in its lone championship game appearance in 2012.

"We've done all the preparation we can do at this point," Murray said. "We've experienced playing against the best teams in the country. There's no need to have nerves."

Goalies Alyssa Costantino and Kelsey Richardson each played a half for the Orange and combined for five saves, while Virginia's senior All-American Liz Colgan recorded eight saves. Syracuse outshot Virginia 30-19, and held the Cavaliers to fewer than 10 goals for just the third time this year.

Virginia, which had won eight of its last 10 in reaching the NCAA semifinals for the first time since 2007, finished 12-9. Keeshan and Boyd led the Cavs with three goals each.

"I thought it was a great effort on our part," Gait said. "Our big time players stood up."

Notes: Syracuse improved to 2-3 all-time in NCAA semifinal games... The Orange will try to become first Syracuse women's team in any sport to win an NCAA championship... Syracuse has now won four straight over Virginia. The Cavaliers still lead the series 11-6... Friday's game was the first postseason meeting between the teams... Sunday's championship game will begin at 8:30 p.m.


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