May 3, 2013

Hoyas, Orange to Close Out Big East Rivalry in Title Game

by Clare Lochary | | Twitter | Semifinal Round Live Blog Replay

Georgetown will face Syracuse in Saturday's Big East women's championship game. It will be the final conference meeting between the two teams, as the Orange leave for the ACC for next season.
© John Strohsacker

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Syracuse and Georgetown are founding members of the Big East Conference. It's only fitting that they should meet one last time, in the league's championship game, before the Orange departs for the ACC.

"It's such a shame that the rivalry has to be ending. I'm just glad to be a part of it," Georgetown midfielder Sophia Thomas said. "They're a huge team and I'd love to beat them."

Thomas had two goals in No. 3 seed Georgetown's wild 16-14 win over No. 4 Loyola on Thursday night. The game had four ties and three lead changes, all in the final 16 minutes. Top-seeded Syracuse coasted to a 19-6 win over No. 4 UConn, securing a berth in the league final for the second straight year.

"I think they're excited. They've never won it, and they're pretty hungry and driven," Orange coach Gary Gait said of his team.

Despite being a powerhouse within the conference and nationally, the Orange has never won the Big East tournament. They have one last chance to do so in the rematch at Georgetown at 1 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network).

"The basketball team almost did it, and we want to do it, just to be champs going out," Syracuse junior attacker Alyssa Murray said, referring to the Orange men's basketball team's 78-61 loss in the Big East final to eventual national champion Louisville.

"We've just got to get one. There's no better way to leave the Big East than with a championship."

Murray had three goals and two assists in the win over the Huskies, who were first-time Big East tournament participants and will enter Selection Sunday with a program-best 13-4 record and a strong chance for an at-large bid. UConn traded goals with the Orange early in the first semifinal, but Syracuse rattled off eight unanswered midway through the first half to take a firm lead.

Freshman attacker Kayla Treanor led Syracuse with four goals and two assists. With her performance in the semifinal, Treanor became the Orange's all-time freshman goal leader with 54 tallies in the 2013 season, surpassing senior Michelle Tumolo's previous record of 51. Tumolo has been sidelined with an ACL injury since April 16, and Treanor has emerged as a strong complement to Murray.

"Kayla's a really great player. Fun to play with, loves to lax, loves to learn," Murray said.

In the day's second semifinal, Georgetown had an 8-4 halftime lead on Loyola, but allowed the Hounds to come storming back and take a 12-11 lead with 10:35 minutes remaining in the game.

"I thought Loyola came out in the second half like a team that needed a win. But I give our team a lot of credit for not ringing the bell, and saying, 'You know what? We're not just going to lay down and die,'" Hoyas coach Ricky Fried said.

Georgetown answered with five straight goals, and hung on for the win. Loyola enters Selection Sunday with a 10-7 record and a high RPI, with a good chance to secure an at-large bid.

The Hoyas will now face Syracuse in the Big East championship. It's a rematch of the 2010 conference title game, which was the last time the Hoyas claimed the Big East crown with a 13-11 win.

Gait remembers the loss as a learning experience, and one that he applied in Thursday's semifinal to defeat UConn's backer zone defense.

"You have a dodging-type offense when you have a backer zone defense. You move the ball, find your open players in the middle," he said. "I learned to play against the backer against Georgetown when they played it three years ago. We played them three times, and I figured it out the third time."

After losing in the 2010 Big East final, Syracuse went on to defeat Georgetown 15-8 in the NCAA tournament.

Much more recently, the Orange defeated the Hoyas, 13-7, on April 28. Fried wants to see Georgetown clean up its clears and rides — usually team strengths — compared to the last Syracuse game, but is confident in the Hoyas' ability to compete.

Thomas was a freshman the last time Georgetown won a conference title. She enjoyed it, but at the time didn't appreciate what went into the team's success. Now, with one last chance to reclaim the title, she is focused and ready.

"Freshman year we made it, and it was an amazing feeling, but I didn't really understand how hard it was to work to get there," Thomas said. "What really hurt us in the last game is we showed up kind of tentative and we gave them the momentum at the beginning. If we can show up for the entire game, I think we can get a win."

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