The feeling of holding that trophy still hasn’t set in.
Serra Degnan, a 2013 Wyoming Area graduate, joined elite company on Sunday, Nov. 22. The Syracuse University field hockey star helped the Orange win the NCAA Division 1 National Field Hockey Championship with a 4-2 win over the University of North Carolina in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
This was the first women’s national title in the history of the school. It is only the fourth time a Wyoming Area alumni was part of a national title team, according to athletic director Joe Pizano.
In 1986, Al Harris and Mark Sickler won the NCAA Football Championship with Penn State. At the University of Massachusetts, Jim Pizano won the NCAA Division 1-AA football title in 1998. Degnan is now the fourth.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” Degnan said. “It’s incredible and the team has worked so hard for so many years. There’s been so many alumni helping us and it’s the best feeling in the world.”
Syracuse carried a 2-0 lead into halftime before the Tar Heels scored two quick goals to open the second half. Two minutes later, however, the Orange took the lead again. In the waning moments of the game, UNC pulled its goalie and Syracuse’s Emma Lamison scored to seal the win.
That’s when the team knew all the hard work had paid off, Degnan said.
“We all knew we were going to win the national championship no matter what,” she said. “It finally hit us with two minutes left. This is our moment.”
Over the past three seasons, Degnan and her Syracuse teammates have developed a bond that is second-to-none. She lives with several teammates in Syracuse. The team has a family-type bond throughout the season and the offseason, she said.
“That makes us so much stronger,” Degnan said. “I have never had a team with this kind of chemistry before. If something’s on the line you know everyone will go wall-to-wall for each other.
“The girls mean the world to me and we are a family. We will be friends for the rest of our lives and I’ll always hold them dear to my heart.”
While at Wyoming Area, Degnan set several scoring records, which have since been broken by current Wyoming Area senior Bree Bednarski. Bednarski will be playing her college field hockey at the University of Michigan, the place where the national championships were held.
When Degnan was an upperclassman for the Warriors field hockey team, Bednarski was just coming up through the system. There will be only one chance for the two to play each other in college, and Degnan thinks it would be amazing to face each other on opposite sidelines.
“We played at her field this weekend,” Degnan said. “I’m so happy for her and I’m proud of how far the team has come. I know she’ll do well.”
As far as playing at Wyoming Area, Degnan said she owes everything to the team’s coaching staff to get her to where she is today.
“I think Wyoming Area field hockey deserves so much recognition with what the coaches have done,” she said. “I owe so much thanks to everything they’ve done for me.”
In the championship game, Syracuse got on the board early after Liz Sack drove baseline on the Tar Heel defense. She sent a pass out to Emma Russell after drawing the goalkeeper. Russell buried the shot to give ‘Cuse the lead. The goal mounted her point total to 139 in her career, tying Martina Loncaria for the all-time program lead.
Russell’s goal came 8:30 into the game. Syracuse has scored in the first-10 minutes of each of the four NCAA Tournament games and five-of-six postseason games including the ACC Tournament.
The Orange finished the season 21-1 with their only loss coming to North Carolina in the ACC Championship game. Syracuse earned one of four top seeds in the 16-team field for the NCAA tournament. On Nov. 14, the team took care of Massachusetts, 4-2.
A day later, Princeton was a 5-0 victim of the Orange. On Friday, Nov. 20, Syracuse beat the University of Connecticut, 3-1 for a shot at the national title.
The Wyoming Area grad started 21 games this season for the Orange and finished with seven goals and five assists. She is currently studying health and exercise science at Syracuse. Next year will be her final season wearing orange. She said there is only one goal on the field hockey field.
“We’re definitely going to try and repeat,” she said. “That’s everyone’s goal.”
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick