Current Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2014 12:23:37 -0400
NORFOLK, VA. — After watching Syracuse’s defense deny her first three shots, North Carolina forward Charlotte Craddock finally found her opening.
Before Craddock’s goal in the 32nd minute, the No. 1 Tar Heels (23-1) earned four penalty corners, but were unable to convert on any of them. Craddock took the shot on two of those corners, but both times saw the ball deflected away from the cage by Syracuse goalkeeper Leann Stiver.
But once Craddock found the opening on the fifth penalty attempt, there was no looking back for North Carolina’s leading scorer.
With just more than three minutes left in the first half, senior Katie Ardrey drew a penalty corner. As
Ardrey pushed the ball in from the end line, Syracuse’s defense rushed out of the cage to smother UNC’s impending attack.
But the scramble didn’t faze Craddock. She received the ball from Ardrey off the push-in, wound up, and sent a powerful drive into the back of the cage to record the first goal of her hat-trick in UNC’s 6-1 win against No. 5 Syracuse (19-3) in the semifinals of the NCAA championship.
“That second goal that Charlotte scored on the corner was a big-time goal to give us the lead,” senior Jaclyn Gaudioso Radvany said.
Craddock’s goal not only broke the tie, but also ignited a three-goal scoring barrage in the last three minutes of the half.
“We knew the goalie was going to be strong, and what we talked about was widening the goal,” coach Karen Shelton said. “We practiced some corners that were a little bit different. We knew that Stiver was good, one of the best of the country. We knew it was going to be difficult.”
After Sinead Loughran’s goal less than 30 second later, Craddock scored again as freshman Emily Wold found her alone on the right elbow, hit her with the pass and allowed Craddock to do what she does best — score.
“We know we have her as a great backup,” senior midfielder Kelsey Kolojejchick said. “We know that when we need a goal, she’ll be willing to do it.”
Craddock scored once more in the 56th minute of the game to cap North Carolina’s six goal performance. This time, she corralled a loose ball on its way out of the circle and rocketed it into the cage.
“I think I was just in the right place at the right time,” Craddock said.
Craddock might be modest about her scoring ability, but her on-field celebrations are anything but.
After scoring the last goal, Craddock ran away from the goal, toward her teammates exuberantly with her hands high in the air.
“When Charlotte scores, it’s so fun to watch, and it gets me excited no matter when she scores,” Gaudioso Radvany said.
Craddock’s three goals were the third-most scored in an NCAA final or semi-final.
Throughout the season Shelton and her team have constantly said that they wanted to peak at the right time. By all accounts, Craddock’s performance was right on schedule.
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