May 5, 2012

Loyola Women Upset Syracuse for Big East Crown

by Stephen Bailey | | Live Blog Replay

Kerry Stoothoff got in the heads of Syracuse's shooters, Orange coach Gary Gait said, as Loyola earned a dominant 13-7 victory in the Big East women's lacrosse tournament final Saturday.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Loyola had an opportunity to bury the favored Orange in the Big East women's lacrosse tournament championship game.

After scoring the last four goals of the first half against second-ranked Syracuse— which had won 15 straight games — the Greyhounds went on a dominating 6-0 run spanning over two-thirds of the second half to earn its second straight Big East title and NCAA tournament berth.

"I'm very proud of the girls and this effort they put forth today," said Loyola head coach Jen Adams. "I'd say it was probably our best game we've played all season. They could have not waited until this late in the season for it, but it's what you want to be doing is playing your best lacrosse at this point in the year."

The offensive outburst quickly squashed the top-seeded Orange's (16-3) comeback hopes as the second-seeded Greyhounds (13-5) ran away with a 13-7 victory in front of 527 fans in the Carrier Dome on Saturday. Sophomore Marlee Paton scored a game-high three goals and freshman Annie Thomas tallied five points on two goals and three assists to lead the Greyhounds.

Loyola goalkeeper Kerry Stoothoff — who finished with 11 saves — and Big East Defensive Player of the Year Kellye Gallagher took care of business at the other end, frustrating an Orange attack which entered the game averaging over 15 goals per contest.

"When you watched us play, it didn't look like a Big East undefeated team playing out there today," Syracuse head coach Gary Gait said. "It's just because the players were thinking in the back of their mind, 'How do we score on this goalie? How do we score on this defense?' instead of just executing at full speed and doing what we worked on."

Coming out of halftime down 7-4, the Orange appeared to seize momentum. Leading scorer Alyssa Murray beat Stoothoff just 1:22 into the second half.

But the Greyhounds responded, with Thomas, operating from behind the cage, serving as the catalyst.

Just seconds after the Murray score, Thomas found midfielder Kathleen Barranco streaking toward the right doorstep. Barranco beat SU's Janelle Stegeland and Katie Webster to the spot, caught the pass and quickly whipped it past goalie Kelsey Richardson and into the top-right corner.

She tallied another assist 1:21 later to extend the Loyola lead to five, marking SU's largest deficit of the season.

"Jen [Adams] just kept saying from the sideline 'patience, patience,'" Thomas said. "So I just waited and I just waited for the right time. I love playing behind there and seeing the whole field and hitting my teammates when they're open."

The Greyhounds rattled off three more goals, two by Paton, to take a 12-4 lead with 18:38 remaining.

In the following minutes, the Orange had a series of chances to close the gap, but each time Stoothoff and the defense were up to the challenge.

Standing behind the net with 15:35 left, Syracuse attacker Michelle Tumolo faked a flip pass to a cutting Devon Collins. She then bolted around the right side of the net and flung a shot toward net, but Stoothoff was there.

Three minutes later Gallagher knocked the ball out of the stick of Sarah Holden, forcing Syracuse's 10th turnover of the game. And a minute after that, she thwarted Orange attacker Devon Collins.

"I think we just shocked the world, proved everyone wrong, and it feels great," Stoothoff said.

The Orange tacked on a couple late goals as Tumolo and Murray, who entered the championship game with a combined 102 goals, finally found their groove. But it was too little too late.

With the win, the Greyhounds earned a spot in the NCAA tournament, while the Orange will likely receive an at-large bid when the field is announced Monday at 9 p.m.

"I think all season we've had belief," Paton said. "It hasn't been about a lack of belief. We know that we're such a close-knit and good team that we knew that any day we came out and played our best lacrosse, that we could take on any opponent, and I think we showed that today.

"We were the underdogs coming in here and I think we proved a lot of people wrong."

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