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first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Freshmen Annalena Ulbrich and Laura Hurff have practiced corner shots together countless times in their rookie season. So when the duo locked eyes as Ulbrich was about to take a corner shot with eight minutes remaining in the first half, they had already visualized the goal-scoring play that was about to ensue.Ulbrich fired her pass from the top of the circle that just barely nicked off the stick of Hurff and into the net to give No. 13 Syracuse (9-3, 1-3 Atlantic Coast) a one-goal lead over No. 5 Louisville (10-3, 3-2), and the goal spearhead a 3-1 winning effort for the Orange.Hurff credited Ulbrich as being the key factor to setting the play up in the moments before the corner shot. Despite being listed as a defender, Ulbrich has been an invaluable asset to the offense and showed why in the win over the Cardinals. “I made eye contact with (Ulbrich) so I tried to cut in front of the defender,” Hurff said. “My stick just happened to hit the ball and I turned around and it was unbelievable.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textGiven the enormous amount of success on the field for Ulbrich, her confidence can go unquestioned. What seems to be understated is her ability to quickly learn and adapt to her role in the first year on the team.Head coach Ange Bradley mentioned her team is playing with more confidence given the increased comfortability gained by the four starting freshmen and the way they are taking to a new system — with Ulbrich at the center of that.“An area we’ve been working on is the different thirds of the field,” Bradley said. “Laura had her stick in the right place at the right time that play.“It’s nice to see it all come together.”In a nearly identical scenario, Ulbrich again was taking a penalty corner later in the game. She fired the ball in past the swarm of defenders from the top of the circle. Her stick, however, made contact with a Louisville defender who dropped to her knees after the contact was made, and the goal was waived off.Ulbrich is tied for the team lead in goals with eight, all of which have come from the top of the circle on penalty corners. Her four shots on goal against the Cardinals were second most of any player on either team.She also provides as a backbone to the SU defense, often standing the furthest back as the last line of defense between her and the goalie. The constant back-and-forth of offense and defense is a unique combination, but even as a rookie she knows it’s her responsibility.“This is my job,” Ulbrich said. “I got used to it, even though it took me awhile.”She demonstrated her defensive prowess with just over 1:30 remaining in the game and the Cardinals on the comeback trail after notching a late goal to cut their deficit to two. Louisville was threatening again around the Syracuse circle. Ulbrich intercepted a pass and proceeded to skillfully navigate her way through a swarm of defenders to clear the ball.A fundamentally sound defense was a necessity for the Orange against the fifth-ranked team in the country, and Ulbrich knows how crucial of a piece she is to the counterattack. Her presence in the backfield is an intimidating one for opposing teams, and she helped force numerous errant passes from Louisville.“In the backfield,” Ulbrich said, “We had to step up to minimize the space so they don’t have time to look for big balls to hit. “We shifted and closed up space.”While preventing the Cardinals from converting on opportunities to make big hits on the ball, that is at the forefront of Ulbrich’s repertoire. Bradley elected her as the player to take penalty corners because of her ability to out-hit nearly every player on the field, and the humble Ulbrich embarrassingly laughed when asked if she was the hardest hitter on the team.Said Ulbrich: “Yeah, I probably am.” Comments Published on October 11, 2014 at 4:49 pm Contact Connor: [email protected] | @connorgrossmanlast_img

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