UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State's hopes of returning to the national semifinals were dashed Sunday afternoon by Syracuse.
Orange goalkeeper Leann Stiver proved to be too tough for the Nittany Lions to solve in the 5-2 Syracuse win at the Penn State Field Hockey Complex in the NCAA Regional Finals.
The Nittany Lions (18-4) outshot the Orange 25-20 and put up a torrent of shots in the second half with a 17-8 advantage in shots, but Stiver was too tough, making 13 saves to return Syracuse (19-2) to the semifinals.
“Syracuse’s goalie was awesome,” head coach Charlene Morett said. “I though she the difference in the game, really. I think that Syracuse is a good team and their kids played very, very hard. It was an awesome second half. Where we had all of that momentum going, and then they were able to come back…it was tough to get to 2-1, and then all of a sudden it was 3-1…We had some great chances at the beginning of the game, and you have to score on those.”
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Down 2-0 at halftime, Whitney Reddig scored a pair of second-half goals for the Nittany Lions, but Syracuse put in three scores in between to take control of the match.
Liz McInerney, Jordan Page and Iona Holloway knocked off the Syracuse scores over an 11-minute stretch.
Gillian Pinder knocked in a rebound for the first Orange score and Page also scored in the first half.
Syracuse was one of two unseeded teams to make it to the national semifinals, which will be played Friday at Old Dominion. The Orange will be joined by Maryland, which upset No. 3 Connecticut. Top-seeded North Carolina will face Syracuse on Friday while No. 2 Princeton rounds out the remaining field. The national championship will be played Sunday.
The Nittany Lions finished the regular season ranked third in the country and locked up the tournament and regular season Big Ten titles.
Reddig's first score came on the heels of Penn State's ninth straight penalty corner. As the ball made its way to Hannah Allison at the top of the circle, the redshirt senior sent a quick pass to Reddig at the left corner of the net. Reddig one-timed the ball in out of midair to find the back of the cage for her 26th point.
In the final minutes, Kelsey Amy ripped a hard shot at Stiver, forcing the keeper to give up a rebound. Amy hustled to the ball and sent another shot towards the net where Reddig was waiting. The junior was able to angle her stick and deflect the ball in past Stiver to give Amy her 12th assist of the season.
Penn State also had a sizable 15-7 advantage in penalty corners, with 11 of them in the second half.
The match was the last for a number of talented seniors, including Amy, Allison and keeper Ayla Halus, who finished with 12 saves.
“For the seniors, I just want to thank them for all of their years and the effort that they gave," said Morett, the Big Ten's Coach of the Year. "I thought that Hannah (Allison) played exceptionally well today. She was a great leader on the field, as was Ayla (Halus). Kelsey (Amy) had some great chances, too. But they have been a great group of seniors. And for Lauren Alwine to come in as a redshirt senior and try to help us out, it was a nice addition this year.”