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When Sierra Cockerille scooped up a ground ball near midfield after it rolled off the stick of a Notre Dame attack, she darted downfield into a wide open gap in Notre Dame’s defense and fired home for her first goal of the night, unassisted. Minutes later, Cockerille scored again in the same fashion — collecting a ground ball, sprinting over 30 yards unmarked and scoring.
In No. 2 Syracuse’s (4-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast) 18-14 win over No. 4 Notre Dame (2-1, 1-1), Cockerille led all scorers with a career-high five goals and two assists. The Orange notched their third win over a top-5 opponent in the first of a two-game series against the Fighting Irish.
“It was our first real challenge,” head coach Gary Gait said postgame.
Thursday night, it was Syracuse’s offense that set the pace. The Orange fired 30 shots, 23 of which were on goal, and tied a season-high 18 goals. Despite a second-half run by Notre Dame that featured five unanswered goals, Syracuse hung on to remain undefeated on the year and improved its win streak to 10-0, dating back to Feb. 2020.
“Just getting good, quality shots, for us, making decisions, finding the open players in that first half,” Gait said. “Typically our second half is slower this year. We scored more goals this (second) half than we have in the other games, on offense we’re definitely sharper.”
Freshman Emma Ward made her first start of the year after a five-point performance last weekend. A minute into the game on Syracuse’s first possession, Cockerille charged through a gaping hole in the Fighting Irish midfield line. She saw Ward hovering near the left goalpost, and flipped the freshman a pass. Ward corralled it, turned to face the goal and bounced the ball into the net before the two defenders closing her down could respond.
The Orange scored 10 first-half goals on 12 shots on goal, and continued that trend of strong shooting in the second half. Less than a minute after halftime, Cockerille cut across the Notre Dame zone, connected with Megan Carney, who dashed from the left and over the heads of two defenders to score on Syracuse’s first possession.
The Fighting Irsish averaged 37.5 shots per game heading into Thursday’s matchup, a mark that’s among the nation’s top-10, but notched just 27 against the Orange’s defense. It took Notre Dame nearly eight minutes to find its first goal, which came on a free-position from attack Jackie Wolak.
The Fighting Irish slowed down the game, using up almost half of its shot clock on each possession. Syracuse conceded nine free position opportunities, five of which Notre Dame converted on. Four were in the second half, and three came during the Fighting Irish’s 5-0 run.
Midway through the second half, Notre Dame’s Madison Mote received a pass in an open lane and was immediately swarmed, and fouled, within the 8-meter arc by Ella Simkins. On the ensuing free position, Mote fired to Asa Goldstock’s right side for her second consecutive goal on as many possessions.
Less than a minute later, it was Allyson Trice who gifted the Fighting Irish another free position, which Madison Ahern converted.
“We got to make sure we do a better job and try to limit those opportunities,” Gait said.
The Orange went on an 18-minute scoring drought until Ward’s free position goal with six minutes remaining. Ward finished with her second hat trick and seventh goal of the season.
“We got to do a better job of not letting it get under us and not getting worked up about it.” Gait said about play after five unanswered goals. “It’s playing and continuing to make plays instead of focusing on the ones we can’t control.”
Less than a week after finishing with a career high 17-saves against Duke, Asa Goldstock made just eight saves against Notre Dame, holding the Fighting Irish to 14 goals. Coming into the matchup, Goldstock’s save percentage (.694) was behind just Notre Dame starting goalie Bridget Deehan (.750).
But with five minutes left in the game, Deehan was swapped for backup Lilly Callahan. Deehan finished with just five saves after the likes of Cockerille, Carney and Meaghan Tyrrell all scored at least five points. The Notre Dame starter averaged 3 goals allowed entering Thursday’s matchup — she allowed 18 against the Orange.
Against Notre Dame’s man defense, Ward sensed a defender on her back late in the second half. She spun to her right, took a blind shot to the net which missed wide and hit the wall behind the net. Carney picked up the rebound, dishing back to Ward for a redemption attempt which the freshman dispatched for her second goal of the game.
Minutes later, she’d score again to halt the Fighting Irish’s potential comeback.
“We made a lot of mistakes, there (were) a lot of teaching points. But we can learn from this,” Gait said.
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