Enniskerry’s Emma Russell and Antrim’s Zoe Wilson continued Ireland’s excellent recent run in the NCAA in the US as they helped Syracuse University to their first ever national title on Sunday evening.
Their success follows recent wins for Roisin Upton in the past two years for the Uconn Huskies while Megan Frazer was a winner with University of Maryland in 2011.
Both Russell, who captained the side, and Wilson were on the mark, the latter scoring her first goal for the side in the final against North Carolina at a snow-surrounded field.
“I’ve been chasing this dream for 25 years,” said head coach Ange Bradley. “I’m so proud of these women that have worked so hard.”
During the win, Russell became Syracuse’s all-time leader in points, capping an amazing four-year spell with the team.
“This senior class is so special to me,” Bradley said. “We’ve had so many successes and many of those successes have come after failure. This group has really believed in the program and there’s times that I’m learning from them.
“They embraced the philosophy, they’re humble and hard working. To represent the women of over 20-something years of Syracuse field hockey, this is for them. For this senior class to be the group to do it is something special.”
Syracuse got on the score board early on after Liz Sack drove baseline on the Tar Heel defense. She sent a pass out to Russell who, after drawing the goalkeeper, buried her shot in the ninth minute.
It meant Cuse continued their run of scoring in the first ten minutes of each of their four playoff games this year. Soon after, Alma Fenne made it 2-0 with a backhand shot before Gab Major got the Tar Heels back within range with a deflection goal.
Malin Evert equalised with 14 minutes to go but the Orange wouldn’t let the momentum swing continue. Wilson netted her first-career goal off a pass from Lies Lagerweij following a penalty corner to give her side the lead.
And the win was complete when Russell set up Emma Lamison for the 4-2 lead with less than three minutes to go.