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NCAA Tournament preview: No. 5 Maryland field hockey vs. No. 10 Syracuse

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The Terps defeated Virginia, 2-1 in the first round of the tournament.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
UMTerps

The No. 5 Maryland Terrapins will host the No. 10 Syracuse Orange in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park on Sunday at 1 p.m. The game can be streamed on BTN Plus.

Maryland is coming off a narrow 2-1 victory over No. 13 Virginia Cavaliers on Friday. The Terps dominated defensively and did not surrender a goal until the fourth quarter.

Syracuse pulled off an upset for the ages with a resounding 4-1 victory over No. 4 Penn State Nittany Lions in the first of the NCAA Tournament doubleheader in College Park.

The Orange advanced in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016. Syracuse never trailed in the contest and even took a resounding 3-0 at a point over one of the top premier teams in the Big Ten.

Syracuse leads the all-time series with a 2-1 lead. Maryland defeated the Orange in the 2011 NCAA Tournament in overtime by a score of 2-1.

Now let’s look at the Syracuse Orange.

Syracuse Orange: 14-5 (4-2 ACC)

2020 record: 8-8 (4-6)

Syracuse is led by its head coach Ange Bradley, who’s in her 15th season leading the Orange. Bradley has established Syracuse as a national contender since stepping on campus, capping it off with the first National Championship in school history in 2015.

The former Maryland assistant coach has guided Syracuse to 13 NCAA Tournament appearances and to the best record in the ACC since joining the conference in 2013.

Bradley has led the Orange to new heights, with a 2013 appearance ACC Tournament Final and a National Championship appearance in 2014. The Delaware Blue Hen Hall of Famer was named the 2015 ACC Coach of the Year and has received the Big East Coach of the Year award four times in her successful career. She has established a winning culture with Syracuse and has made the ACC powerhouse an attractive destination for prospective student-athletes.

Players to know

Eefke Van Den Nieuwenhof, sophomore back, No. 21 — The agile sophomore is tied for second in the ACC goal with goals scored, recording a respective nine goals. The Netherlands native is applying pressure on opponents’ cages this season, with her second-place ranking in the ACC with 72 shots. The Orange offense starts and ends with her aggressiveness contributing two game-winning goals to go along with 26 shots on goal this season.

Quirine Comans, graduate student forward, No. 7 — Comans is a field general whenever she touches the field with her facilitation of the ball. She is tied for third in assists in the ACC, dropping nine dimes on the season. The 2021 first-time All-ACC member has also dropped nine goals for the Orange, which is tied for second place in goals for the ACC. Comans provides versatility for the Syracuse attack adding her 25 shots on goal this season.

Pleun Lammers, junior forward, No. 31 — Lammers can identify angles to register favorable looks for shots with her 27 shots on the season, which falls at the No. 10 spot in the ACC. The Netherlands native is in a two-way tie for sixth place in goals with her respective eight goals on the season. She is one of a few selected groups who are extremely versatile. Lammers has eight assists to contribute to her attack.

Strength

Scoring. The Syracuse Orange are an offensive juggernaut that showcases versatility and a determination to score at a high clip. Syracuse is the fifth-ranked team in the NCAA with goals per game, scoring 3.4 goals per contest. The Orange come into the matchup with dynamic playmakers on the edges to offer an offensive attack. Syracuse is a well-oiled machine on offense, hence its 61 goals this season.

Weakness

Close games. The Orange have dropped just five games this season and in four of those losses, Syracuse lost by one goal. The only game in which the Orange lost by a margin of more than one was against then-No. 10 North Carolina in the ACC championship.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland win its final home game of the 2021 season? Maryland is 8-3 at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex this season. The Terps seem to be feeding off of fans being back in the stands this season, averaging 2.9 goals on their home field. Maryland will need to start off fast and rely on its stingy defense to end its season off at home on the right note.

2. Which defense is going to give: Maryland or Syracuse? Maryland played outstanding on defense pitching a shutout in nearly all four quarters before surrendering a goal with under three minutes left in the game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse shut down a loaded Penn State, limiting them to one goal on 11 shots in the contest. It is obvious that whoever plays stifling defense is likely to continue to advance in the NCAA Tournament.

3. Which premier goalie will relinquish the first goal? Maryland star goalie Noelle Frost is one of the best goalies in the country with her athleticism to boast a strong presence and lateral movement to shift her feet to defend different angles of goal attempts. Frost is fifth in the Big Ten only allowing 1.4 goals a game. The leader of the Terps defense has also added 64 saves this season. Syracuse goalie Brooke Borzymowski defends the cage at a high clip, only relinquishing 1.1 goals per game. Borzymowski has recorded 45 saves this season with a 72.6 save percentage this season. It will be interesting to see which team is able to earn shots on these two outstanding goalies.