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WAER works hard to bring you award-winning sports coverage in Central New York. With a Sports staff of more than 20 people, you get comprehensive coverage of Syracuse University Football, Men's Basketball, and Men's Lacrosse. The best play by play on the air combined with regular morning and afternoon sports updates make WAER the source for sports in Central New York.  See the legacy video here.  See what it's like being in WAER Sports

Jack Marion

The No. 4 Syracuse women’s field hockey team looks to reach its first national championship in team history on Friday afternoon.  The Orange (17-5) faces top-ranked North Carolina (19-3) in the Final Four at 2 p.m. in College Park, Md.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” head coach Ange Bradley said after beating Penn State in the quarterfinals on Saturday. 

Added Bradley, “I’m just so proud of these young women. They are a really special group.”

It’s Syracuse's second trip to the Final Four in three seasons.

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One smooth shot finally brought the tentative Carrier Dome crowd to its feet.

With nine minutes left in the game, Hampton cut Syracuse’s lead down from 11 to five and the upset bid went from a prayer to a possibility.

That’s when Trevor Cooney took a Tyler Roberson handoff and nailed a three pointer from the top of the key.  Syracuse took a 48-40 lead with 8:53 left in the game and never led by fewer than six points for the rest of the way. It was only Cooney’s second three of the game, but it came at the perfect time for the Orange. 

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Jim Boeheim knew he could rely on Rakeem Christmas for some lockdown defense.  But he may not have expected his senior center to be Syracuse’s offensive leader, as well.

With Michael Gbinije inactive for undisclosed reasons, Christmas picked up the slack and scored a career-high 21 points in Syracuse’s season opener.  It ignited the Orange to an easy 89-42 win against Kennesaw State on Friday night in the Carrier Dome.

“When he’s near the basket, he’s going to finish or get fouled,” Jim Boeheim said.  “He’s a good offensive player and he’s gotten better every year.”

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Syracuse’s 2014 bowl hopes – already diminished by back-to-back losses to Clemson and NC State – took one final blow on Saturday. 

The Orange lost to the No. 21 Duke Blue Devils, 27-10, in the Carrier Dome for its seventh loss of the season.  That means Syracuse (3-7, 1-5 ACC) no longer has a chance for bowl eligibility, after reaching the postseason in three of the past four seasons.

"It hurts," Scott Shafer said.  "It’s a difficult situation because that’s one of those goals that we wanted to come back and reach. But we didn’t. So what are you going to do?"

Cole Murphy just wanted to play football.

But when he decided to join his high school team, his parents gave him only one option.

“You can play, but you can only be kicker,” he said.

For Murphy, the decision to kick has been a good one.  The true freshman at Syracuse has been almost flawless since taking over for Ryan Norton earlier in the season. He’s 12-14 on field goals, including a 50-yarder in back-to-back games.

Close, but not close enough.

The theme of Syracuse’s season continued as the Orange lost, 24-17, in heartbreaking fashion to the NC State Wolfpack.

Cole Murphy’s 50-yard field goal and Syracuse’s successful onside kick set up a dramatic finish that few of the 40,787 fans could have expected.  The Orange took over at its own 46 after Dyshawn Davis – by rule – wasn’t able to advance a recovered onside kick.  So Syracuse set up with 17 seconds and no timeouts left, needing a game-tying touchdown.

AJ Long’s picture perfect start to his college career came crashing down to earth with one quick play. 

It was Syracuse’s first offensive play in Death Valley.  The freshman quarterback dropped back to pass and Clemson’s defensive pressure rushed in, as expected, and engulfed the pocket.  Tigers’ linebacker Stephone Anthony dropped Long for a sack.

“He didn’t play very well,” offensive coordinator Tim Lester said.  “He played like a freshman and made a lot of mistakes. He has to take care of the ball better.”

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Syracuse’s offense was lifeless in Death Valley.

And the star-studded Clemson defense backed up the hype with a shutdown performance in Memorial Stadium.  The Tigers only allowed two long Cole Murphy field goals and blocked another, en route to a 16-6 victory over the Orange on Saturday night.

AJ Long said this will be one of the most fun games he’ll ever play in his career. When he meets the Clemson defense, he may feel otherwise.

Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 ACC) travels to South Carolina on Saturday to face the No. 21 Clemson Tigers, which allows the fifth fewest yards per game in the FBS.  Last week, Long ended Syracuse’s four game losing streak with a 30-7 win at Wake Forest.  But he realizes he’ll have a harder challenge in his second career start.

He led Syracuse to its first win in over a month.  He’s thrown more touchdowns in two games than Terrel Hunt did in five.  And he became the first true freshman in team history to win his starting debut.  

Even at a young age, AJ Long has shown the traits of a successful college quarterback – the strong arm, the quick feet and the mental confidence.

But Long admits that back in high school, he started thinking he wouldn't be good enough to play Division-I football.  There was always that one trait missing: the height.

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