FH : Back-to-back: Orange rides defense to 2nd straight Big East title

first_img Published on November 6, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Stephen: [email protected] | @Stephen_Bailey1 Facebook Twitter Google+ Stephanie Hussey led the charge from the Syracuse bench as the Orange stormed the field. She bolted for Amy Kee, bear-hugging her while rocking back and forth in celebration of Syracuse winning its third Big East championship in four years.The SU players upfield rushed to Kee and Iona Holloway, forming a jumping, screaming Orange mass near the sideline. Moments later, Heather Susek and Erika Wachter gave head coach Ange Bradley a Gatorade bath to complete the celebration.‘It feels wonderful,’ Bradley said. ‘I’m so happy for the kids, and this year it was just fun to sit back and watch them celebrate.’Kee and Holloway, two of SU’s backs, were fittingly at the heart of the mob. The pair of juniors led a stifling second-half defensive effort from No. 5 Syracuse (18-3, 5-1 Big East), as the Orange held No. 4 Connecticut (17-2, 6-0) to just one shot and two penalty corner opportunities in a 3-2 victory over the Huskies. After allowing two first-half goals, the Syracuse defense buckled down to seal a win in Sunday’s Big East tournament championship game in front of 1,513 at J.S. Coyne Stadium.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSyracuse is guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tournament with the win.The Orange defense battled for the final 35 minutes to preserve a one-goal lead. Lauren Brooks, Liz McInerney and Martina Loncarica all scored in the first half, and the SU defense proved  ready to halt the relentless attacks of Connecticut in the second half, led sophomore forward Anne Jeute.Kee sprinted from the Syracuse net, making a beeline for Jeute on a corner in the 65th minute. With each step she took, Kee watched as Kim Krzyk received the ball atop the arc for UConn and quickly swung it to the right to Jeute.The pass beat Kee to the Huskies’ forward, but as Jeute, who had already scored in the first half, wound up to fire a potential game-tying shot, Kee stretched out her stick to poke the ball away.While Jeute’s follow-through smashed into Kee’s shin, causing her to writhe in pain, Kee preserved SU’s lead.Just two weeks ago, when UConn edged SU 3-2 in double overtime, Jeute tallied the equalizer on an identical penalty corner play. But on Sunday, Kee and the Orange were prepared for UConn’s ‘go-to corner,’ having simulated it all week in practice.‘We had girls running against Amy Kee (in practice), holding that (deflection) line in practice so that Amy could practice getting in front of the ball, getting in front of the player and blocking out her line,’ Holloway said.The Orange backs also controlled the UConn offense by forcing the Huskies to the outside and pressuring the ball.Holloway pestered Jeute constantly, repeatedly lowering her stick to the ground or laying out on the turf to steal the ball. It seemed every time Jeute found an opening, Holloway closed it.Halfway through the second half, Holloway sprawled out to deflect a pass intended for Jeute toward the center of the field. She immediately sprang up and battled Jeute for possession. The two bumped shoulders, thwacked sticks and fell forward, but it was Holloway who nudged the ball away to a teammate.The Syracuse bench erupted, running toward the sideline.‘Her mental energy is so powerful,’ Bradley said. ‘She’s so tough and an amazing competitor. She was not going to lose. She was not going to be denied. She just was in the right place all the time, outstanding.’And even when the Huskies did break through the first level of the SU defense —as Jeute did early in the second half —Bradley’s staggered defensive formation allowed the Orange backs to support each other.Holloway took on the charging Jeute, won possession and cleared the ball.SU goalkeeper Leann Stiver appreciated the defensive execution. ‘They layered the defense so if one of them got beaten, another one was ready there to pick up the ball,’ Stiver said. ‘They played a great defense in the second half. I had a real easy job, which made me a lot happier in the cage.’Stiver helped keep the backs in position and passed crucial tests at the end of the game. With just two minutes remaining, Stiver got her glove on a Jestine Angelini shot attempt, discarding the ball and UConn’s final offensive gasp.Angelini and Jeute were denied by a defense that refused to squander a three-goal lead.‘They were really coming down on us in the second half,’ Holloway said. ‘But we’d already conceded two (goals), and we weren’t conceding anymore.’[email protected]center_img Commentslast_img