FH : On its own turf: Syracuse has home field advantage as host of Big East tournament

first_img Published on November 2, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Stephen: [email protected] | @Stephen_Bailey1 Comments Facebook Twitter Google+center_img As the Connecticut players celebrated on the field after a 3-2 double-overtime victory over Syracuse on Oct. 23, the Orange players trudged toward the sidelines, disgruntled with their failure.The frustration from that losing performance resonated with senior back Nicole Nelson. It was a game the Orange could have won.‘I was pretty pissed off actually,’ senior back Nicole Nelson said on Oct. 26. ‘I just really thought we were going to win the game, and it was really disappointing.’No. 5 Syracuse (16-3, 5-1 Big East) may have a chance to avenge that loss this weekend in the Big East tournament. The second-seeded Orange, which is hosting this year’s tournament at J.S. Coyne Stadium, opens play in the four-team bracket against third-seeded Villanova (8-10, 3-3) Friday at 3 p.m. No. 4 Connecticut, the top seed, plays fourth-seeded Louisville (10-8, 3-3) in the first semifinal matchup at 12:30 p.m.If SU and UConn take care of business in the semifinals against their lower-seeded opponents, the two will face off in the championship game for the fourth consecutive season. The Big East title game will be played Sunday at 1 p.m.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Orange and the Huskies have developed an unparalleled rivalry in the Big East, partially through those three championship matches. SU earned victories in the 2008 and 2010 title games and beat out Connecticut for the regular-season title in all three years from 2008-10.This season, however, the Huskies went undefeated in conference play to earn the regular-season crown. They have also been slotted ahead of Syracuse in the NFHCA Coaches Poll all season long.In preparation for this year’s conference tournament, UConn is revamping its game plan. Huskies head coach Nancy Stevens wants to adjust her team’s approach to keep its familiar conference opponents on their toes.One area Connecticut is tweaking is penalty corners, which accounted for two of its three goals against the Orange in its regular-season win.‘We are adding a few new looks on both the attack and defense corner set pieces,’ Stevens said in an email to The Daily Orange. ‘… We feel it is important to give the opponents different looks in many areas of our game. We are working hard to upgrade our pressing and outletting schemes, as well.’If the Huskies execute, they shouldn’t have trouble against Louisville. Still, Stevens and SU head coach Ange Bradley said their teams are focused on defeating their semifinal opponents and aren’t looking ahead to a potential fourth-consecutive finals rematch.Especially after both Louisville and Villanova gave the top-seeded teams trouble in the regular season.The Cardinals led the Huskies for the first 20-plus minutes of what turned out to be a 4-2 loss, and they battled Syracuse to a 2-1 overtime loss earlier in the season.After being eliminated by UConn in each of the last three seasons, Louisville knows what is at stake Friday. They have yet to win a Big East tournament game in program history.Louisville head coach Justine Sowry said the team is embracing its underdog role.‘The mentality that we have to bring is the will to compete and the will to win,’ Sowry said in an email. ‘If you have the belief and you work hard as a team, then anything is possible.’Compared to facing the Cardinals — who were nationally ranked for part of the season — Syracuse arguably has an easier first-round draw in Villanova.But the Orange shouldn’t take the Wildcats lightly after narrowly escaping with a 3-2 victory over Villanova last Friday.Wildcats’ head coach Joanie Milhous said the close game boosted her team’s confidence. The players now know they’re capable of going toe to toe with a national contender.‘The loss was actually a win for us,’ Milhous said in an email. ‘Our team recognized that they can play strong against Syracuse and that we have the ability to beat them.’But the SU players said Villanova’s longer, rougher field turf severely hurt their performance. Friday’s game will be played on regular nylon-knit turf, a much faster and smoother surface.When push comes to shove, Louisville and Villanova pale in comparison to Syracuse and Connecticut. The Big East powerhouses are faster, stronger and more talented than their respective semifinal opponents. And they will likely be the two teams competing in the championship game, barring an unexpected upset.The Huskies lone blemish came against then-No. 8 Boston College, and the Orange has not lost to a lower-ranked team this season. No. 1 Old Dominion and No. 2 North Carolina each edged Syracuse by a goal in the opening weeks of the season, and UConn handed SU its third loss less than two weeks ago.And for Nicole Nelson, the anger evoked by that last defeat still lingers in her mind.‘It just makes me want to beat them even more than I already did,’ Nelson said. ‘UConn has always been a rival for me for the past four years, and every time we play them it’s always a big game.’[email protected]last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *