FH : Loncarica helps No. 2 Syracuse stay unbeaten
Martina Loncarica bent over, clutching her hand, wincing in pain. The freshman midfielder had just taken a ball to her stick-hand in the midst of a first half that saw the No. 2 Orange scoreless, seeking a breakthrough during Sunday’s 3-0 win over Yale.
With a nod of her head, Loncarica shook off the pain and joined her teammates inside the circle for another corner attempt. The Orange had botched its first four tries. With the game in balance, Loncarica wouldn’t let another opportunity slip by.
Off the inbounds pass, Loncarica worked a give-and-go with senior midfielder Shannon Taylor and then buried the shot into the right-hand corner of the net, putting the Orange up 1-0.
‘On that corner set (Loncarica and I) have an awesome relationship,’ Taylor said. ‘We were able to read each other very well. We’re able find each other in the circle when the corner breaks up and doesn’t go as planned, and that’s what happened today.’
Loncarica’s timely play propelled the Orange (12-0) to a 3-0 victory over Yale (2-7) at J.S. Coyne Stadium. Besides her game-winning goal, the freshman midfielder added an assist on SU’s second goal to break the Orange’s single-seasons assists record (it was her 17th assist of the year).
Loncarica helped Syracuse crack a Bulldogs team that laid back and tried to disrupt SU’s vaunted attack, which a game earlier set the Syracuse record for goals in a single season (SU now has 63 goals on the year). The Orange outshot Yale, 30-4, and racked up a 17-3 advantage on penalty corners.
After the opening goal, Loncarica, known by her teammates as ‘Martu,’ slammed her stick on the ground and jumped into Taylor’s arms.
‘It’s not a ritual, but when we score at first I get so excited that I have to jump on someone,’ Loncarica said of her celebration.
Syracuse head coach Ange Bradley said during tough situations like the first half against Yale, Loncarica provides the team with a spark it needs.
‘Martu goes after it,’ Bradley said. ‘She’s bold, she’s courageous, she competes and she is such a spirit to have on a team, I mean, she’s tough and she can play.’
Perhaps even more impressive than the first goal, was how Loncarica decided to follow up her performance. Just four minutes later the Orange was back in the corner set, looking to put some distance between it and the Bulldogs.
This time, Loncarica took the ball off the pass, made a quick cut towards the goal, and slid an undetectable pass to Taylor, who scored her 15th goal of the season and gave the Orange a 2-0 advantage.
On the pass, Loncarica secured her place in the Syracuse record books, breaking Maggie Fitzpatrick’s 20-year-old record of assists in a single season. The new record came just 12 games into the season.
‘(Someone) just told me that (I broke the record),’ Loncarica said, smiling. ‘I’m excited about it, but it’s teamwork because they are, they are the ones that put the balls in the cage.’
It would be a long while before the Orange got on the board again, as the Yale defense continued to pester the Syracuse attack.
The Bulldogs approached the game in an outright defensive formation, often keeping all eleven players on one side of the field to counter Loncarica and the rest of the high-speed Orange attack.
‘Yale dropped back on us today,’ Bradley said. ‘The whole time they didn’t pressure the ball. They didn’t allow goals to be scored against them, but they didn’t go out and score goals. So you know, if you’re preventing a 10-0 win, that’s fine but at the end of the day we still won, we just didn’t score a lot of goals.’
Despite the different formation, the Orange notched its third and final goal when freshman Nicole Nelson batted in a loose ball out of the air following a blocked Lindsey Conrad shot.
The win puts Syracuse in good position heading into another tough stretch of games. The team will travel to Georgetown this week and return home Oct. 12 to face off against No. 20 American.
In order for the Orange to make it through its next few games, though, it will need performances like Loncarica’s Sunday. In the midst of the season, things only get harder as other teams get better, Bradley said.
But having an instigator like Loncarica definitely eases the process.
‘I don’t know, it’s just every game I want to play and I want to win,’ she said. ‘And that’s what keeps the energy up – I’m going after the championship, that’s all. I want to win every game.’
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