SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Orange is going to back to the national semifinals after junior Michelle Tumolo scored with five seconds remaining to give No. 4 Syracuse a 17-16 come-from-behind victory against No. 5 North Carolina (15-4) the Carrier Dome. The Orange (18-3 overall) fought back from a two-goal deficit in the final three minutes to earn the program’s third trip the national semifinals in the last five years. Syracuse will play top-seeded Florida in the semifinals. The Orange beat the Gators, 12-11, in two overtimes in the fourth game of the season.
Tumolo played a role in each of Syracuse’s final three goals. With North Carolina leading 16-14, Tumolo started SU’s comeback when she came from around the back of the right side of the goal and put her low shot past Tar Heels’ goalkeeper Lauren Maksym at the 9:24 mark. On Syracuse’s next possession, Tumolo again worked behind the goal and found a wide open Kailah Kempney on the crease on the left side of the net. Kempney buried her shot to tie the game with 39 seconds remaining.
Kempney won the ensuing draw, which set up Tumolo’s game-winner. She started her dodge outside the fan on the right side. Tumolo went one-on-one with her defender, spun and found the back of the net with a bounce shot that sealed the victory with five seconds left on the clock.
“It’s like a dream,” Tumolo said of the game-winning goal. “I looked at the time and I didn’t want to give North Carolina enough time to get a run off the draw. I knew it was do or die.”
The teams entered the second half tied at 7-7. Sophomore Katie Webster and Tumolo netted back-to-back goals to put the Orange up by two with 27:42 remaining. The Tar Heels responded with three consecutive goals to take its first lead of the game at 10-9, but sophomore Alyssa Murray tied the score with her first goal of the day on a free position with 16:39 to play. North Carolina scored four of the game’s next five goals to take its largest lead of the day at 15-12 at the 8:25 mark.
Murray and senior Sarah Holden cut the lead to 15-14 with consecutive goals, but Laura Zimmerman extended UNC’s lead to 16-14 with her game-high sixth goal of the contest with 3:04 on the clock. That would be the Tar Heels’ final goal as Syracuse completed the comeback.
“I’m proud of the team,” said Syracuse head coach Gary Gait. “They believed they could get it done. Every single player on the team stepped up at one point and made a huge play and that made the difference. They stuck together and gave themselves an opportunity to fight back and win that game. I give them all the credit, starting with Michelle Tumolo stepping up at the end.”
The Orange scored on its first five shots of the game and led 5-2 before North Carolina went on a 4-1 scoring run to tie the game at 6-6 at the 12:51 mark. The Orange regained the lead on Webster’s free position goal, but Zimmerman found the back of the net with 15 seconds left in the half as the teams went into the locker rooms tied at 7-7.
Murray finished with four points (3 goals, 1 assist) to become the third player in school history to record 100 points in a season. Webster added three goals, while Kempney and freshman Devon Collins had two goals apiece. Zimmerman led all scorers with seven points.
Syracuse outshot North Carolina, 35-22, and picked up 12 ground balls compared to four for the Tar Heels. SU held a slight advantage in draw controls, winning 18-of-35.
The Orange will be making the program’s third appearance in the national semifinals. Syracuse advanced to the national semifinals in 2008 and 2010.