Alma Fenne's two goals lead Syracuse to semifinal win over UConn
ANN ARBOR, Michigan -- Connecticut's stranglehold on the NCAA Field Hockey Championship came to an end Friday afternoon when Syracuse senior Alma Fenne scored a pair of goals to lead the Orange to a 3-1 win over the two-time defending national champs.
Fenne scored just two minutes into the first semifinal of the day, then stole the momentum away from a pressing Huskies squad by scoring a break-away goal to make it 3-1 with 9:56 left to play.
The Orange (20-1) will meet either North Carolina or Duke in Sunday's 1 p.m. ET title game.
Syracuse also got a goal from Emma Russell, one of several Orange players who braved the 43-degree game-time temperature at Ocker Field on the campus of the University of Michigan by playing with bare legs beneath their skirts and bare arms under sleeveless jerseys.
The Syracuse victory snapped a 36-game UConn winning streak that dated back to last season and avenged the Huskies' 1-0 win over the Orange in last year's national title game.
It didn't take long for the Orange to get on the scoreboard. Just two minutes into the game, Syracuse earned its first penalty corner. Fenne was unable to corral the corner at the top of the circle, so she peeled off and fired from the top right arc.
"I didn't stop the corner really well, but I could take it to my forehand. I didn't think, I just shot the ball and it was right in the corner," said Fenne, a graduate student who now has a team-high 18 goals in her lone Syracuse season.
Syracuse coach Ange Bradley said the fast start was an integral part of her gameplan.
"Connecticut has scored on their opponents quite early, so that was a major point of emphasis for us in our team prep to try to get one (goal) in the first 10 (minutes) and be able to control that momentum," she said.
Eighteen minutes later, Russell drove into the circle from the left side and sent a shot between the legs of UConn goalkeeper Nina Klein for a 2-0 Syracuse lead.
UConn got on the board with 3:25 left in the first half on a Casey Umstead penalty stroke. Syracuse goalkeeper Jess Jecko argued that Umstead hit the ball twice, but the goal was upheld after video review on an umpire referral.
After mustering just two shots and no penalty corners in the first half, UConn was able to generate more pressure in the second half and seemed to be picking up momentum before Fenne's second score.
"(UConn) put really hard pressure on us but we managed to play out of the pressure and counter once in a while," Fenne said. "Emma Wilson played the ball to me and we knew their goalkeeper would come out. We practiced that all week. I just stayed calm, pulled it around and the goal was open."
UConn coach Nancy Stevens referred to Syracuse as "opportunists" in the win.
"They had a nice goal on a fast break and scored on a broken corner," Stevens said. "Sometimes it's those opportunities that you take advantage of that will determine the outcome of the game."
The Syracuse defense limited the nation's highest-scoring offense to just six shots, none of which came off the stick of UConn sophomore forward Charlotte Veitner, who led the country with 39 goals.
"We knew what we had to do and I think we got the job done," freshman midfielder Zoe Wilson said of the defensive effort. "We were able to play the ball forward into our midfield and forward line and let them do the pretty work."
For UConn, it ends its season with a loss for the first time in three years and the Huskies' five seniors played their final game.
"Even though we didn't come away with a win, we can walk away with a legacy of saying that we've left UConn field hockey with two national championships," senior midfielder Sophie Bowden said. "It's still a little raw right now ... but tonight, tomorrow I'm just going to be happy that I was part of UConn field hockey."