Friday’s Final Four matchup could be billed several ways.
A rematch of last year’s title game. An unstoppable offense against an immovable defense. Another chapter of UConn field hockey’s rivalry with Syracuse.
What matters most of all is that when the two best field hockey teams in the country meet at high noon in Ann Arbor, one will be going home and the other will see their dreams of winning a national title continue for at least another game.
Despite UConn’s undefeated season, Syracuse is the tournament’s higher seed. Head coach Nancy Stevens believes that can be used to the Huskies’ advantage.
“I’d feel that the pressure is on the No. 1 seed at the Final Four,” Stevens said. “Our goal is to have the team relaxed and confident, so playing the role of underdog does help somewhat.”
Syracuse will also come into Friday’s game confident in their ability. The Orange are fresh off a 5-0 win against Princeton.
If UConn is going to advance to their third straight national title game, the Huskies will have to shutdown an offense that’s been lighting up elite teams all season.
Syracuse has outscored fellow NCAA Tournament teams by a 47-16 margin, including its wins over UMass and Princeton in the tournament’s opening rounds.
Luckily for the Huskies, UConn is in the national semifinals for the fourth time in five years due to a defense that has shut down opponents all season long.
The Huskies gave up just six goals during the entire regular season and shutout both Louisville and Boston College in the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
“We are confident in our pressing and defensive effort all over the field,” Stevens said.
In last year’s title game, McKenzie Townsend provided the games’ only goal off a redirect of Anna Middendorf’s shot.
Both teams have experienced roster turnover since last year, but coach Stevens is confident that this year’s outcome will be a repeat of one year ago.
“Both UConn and Syracuse have changed, as both teams graduated seniors and added freshman,” Stevens said. “It comes down to personnel matchups, and we feel our team matches up very well with Syracuse.”
The winner of Friday’s national semifinal game will go on to face the winner of North Carolina-Duke in the national championship on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Bryan Lambert is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.