Ward Leads Syracuse Past Florida, to First Championship Weekend Since 2016

PHOTO BY RICH BARNES

Emma Ward had a career-high six goals as Syracuse beat Florida 17-11 on Saturday to earn its first final four trip since 2016.


Syracuse’s injury woes have been well-documented this year. The biggest blow came right out of the gate with Tewaaraton candidate Emily Hawryschuk going down with an ACL injury after just one game.

Junior Megan Carney, a gold medalist for the 2019 U.S. U19 team, stepped into the void and had a team-leading 49 goals when she, too, went down with an ACL injury in late April.

There have been more injuries along the way and the Orange could have fallen apart. Instead, they’re going to championship weekend for the first time since 2016 after beating Florida 17-11 on Saturday in Syracuse, N.Y., snapping the Gators’ 15-game winning streak.

Playing the hero this time was freshman Emma Ward. The attacker had a career-high six goals and is anything but a typical freshman.

“I look at Emma and don’t think she’s a freshman,” said fifth-year goalie Asa Goldstock. “She was put in a role very early in the season where we expected a lot out of her, and I think any normal freshman would kind of crumble under that pressure. She really embraced that role, and the opportunity that was given to her, she really excelled. She’s been a great component of our offense and we obviously wouldn’t be here without here.”

Since going scoreless against No. 1 North Carolina on April 3, Ward has scored at least one goal in 12 straight games. The streak includes a five-goal effort in the ACC tournament semifinal against Boston College. She’s now third on the team with 64 points on 38 goals and 26 assists.

On Saturday, she came up clutch for Syracuse (16-3).

Florida scored the last two goals of the first half, the last coming with just five seconds left as Bri Harris hit Emily Heller on a backdoor cut to tie the game 5-5.

Florida’s redshirt freshman goalie Sarah Reznick, the nation’s No. 1 recruit from the Class of 2019,  already had seven of the 11 saves she finished with to her credit. Momentum clearly seemed like it could switch to the Gators.

But it never did.

Just 92 seconds into the second half, Ward scored her second of the game. Emma Tyrrell answered with two more. Then Ward. Then Maddy Baxter. Five straight goals to open the second half and Florida (18-3) never fully recovered.







Brianna Harris’ second goal of the game pulled Florida to within 13-10 with 8:03 remaining, but the Gators would get no closer.

“Every time Florida made a run she had an answer, as well as some of the other players,” Gait said of Ward, who had five of her six goals in the second half. “That’s what you need to have success. You’ve got to rely on everybody. It’s not going to be the same person every single day. She got the looks today and she buried her shots. It was fun to watch.”

Ward and the Tyrrell sisters (Emma and Meghan) combined for 13 of the 17 goals and also had a combined six assists. They’re relatively younger on this veteran roster, and it was the veterans that Gait pointed to for leading the way back to championship weekend.

“I look at the players that came back for the fifth and sixth years,” Gait said. “They were focused and dialed in. In the COVID year we were playing great and really thought we had momentum. One of our last wins was against Maryland and before that it was Northwestern. We were feeling really good about that year and then it was cancelled. Those kids came back with the same attitude and on a mission. They wanted to get to the final four. They wanted to give themselves a chance to win a national championship. That’s what we’ve done.”

Goldstock is one of those players. She was solid on Saturday, finishing with seven saves to earn her 16th win of the season. She’s helped set the tone for the younger players like Ward.

“This is my first year, so I can’t really say what it’s like to finally be there,” Ward said. “Having this first opportunity to go there with a great group of upperclassmen and a great group of leaders is awesome. The team we have, I know that we’re going to have so much success when we get to the final four and make a run for that national championship.”

“We wanted to bring our team back to the final four, we wanted to play Syracuse lacrosse and fulfill our destiny of going to the final four,” Goldstock said. “For me, obviously, it’s a hard year. A lot of obstacles for us, a lot of adversity we had to face, but the goal was always the same. I believed it till the end and so did my coaches. Going there is obviously a dream of mine and my teammates. We’re so excited and I’m glad to be closing my career at Syracuse with the opportunity to go the other three best teams in the country."

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