Just 24 hours removed from setting an ACC tournament record with four goals against No. 9 Boston College, Russell was at it again. This time at the expense of the No. 1 UNC field hockey team.
Almost eight minutes into the first period of sudden-death overtime Friday, Russell blasted an impressive back-handed shot past UNC goalkeeper Shannon Johnson to upset the Tar Heels 3-2 and send Syracuse to the ACC Tournament championship.
“That’s a remarkable player,” Coach Karen Shelton said of Russell. “We knew that she was going to be good. We talked about putting her on a short leash, and then she got away from us a little bit, so we’ve got to be better.”
Russell got the scoring started just over 15 minutes in, eluding a UNC defender with a spin move before sending a shot past Johnson. The Tar Heels answered 13 minutes later, when junior forward Casey Di Nardo tipped in a pass from Emma Bozek at the front of the cage.
With fewer than two minutes to play in the first half, senior forward Charlotte Craddock put the Tar Heels ahead 2-1 with a put-back goal off a rebound. It was her first goal since an overtime game-winner against No. 11 Wake Forest on Oct. 25.
Syracuse head coach Ange Bradley apparently had plenty to say to her team at halftime. With fewer than 30 seconds on the halftime clock and all the UNC players on the field, Syracuse was nowhere to be found. The first Orange player finally emerged from the locker room with just 15 seconds to spare, and whatever Bradley told her girls, it worked.
The Orange came out hot, controlling the ball for the majority of the half. Johnson was able to keep the Orange out of the cage for a while, but Syracuse’s onslaught of shots and five penalty corners proved to eventually be too much.
Freshman Lieke Visser tied the game at two for the Orange with just over 15 minutes left.
UNC managed just two second-half shots and went shotless for a 22-minute span.
“They just came out stronger in the second half and wanted it a little bit more,” Di Nardo said.
Russell’s overtime game-winner gave her back-to-back record-breaking days. Her six goals in the tournament are a new ACC record.
The Tar Heels would have liked a chance at Wake Forest for the ACC championship, but with the NCAA tournament days away and chances of UNC hosting the first two rounds almost certain, Shelton and her players still seemed calm.
“Dean Smith used to talk about this all the time: In the ACC tournament, if you go out early, all it means is you get a little more rest going into the NCAA postseason,” Shelton said. “We’ve got larger games ahead.”