Sophomore Charlotte Craddock scored three goals in the win for her fourth hat trick of the year. Senior Jaclyn Gaudioso Radvany scored two and junior Sinead Loughran added one as the Tar Heels, the No. 1 overall seed in tournament, improved to 23-1 with a win over the only team to have beaten them this season.
"Congratulations to Syracuse," UNC coach Karen Shelton said. "I admire the way they play and I'm proud of my kids for advancing. I feel like we had an explosion at the end of the first half that was impressive and something we haven't see all season. I was very pleased with that offensive output. Syracuse required our intensity and total effort. It brought the best out of our kids."
Syracuse won the teams' first matchup, 1-0 in overtime in Syracuse on Sept. 1, and the Orange held the first lead in this one. In the eighth minute of play on a penalty corner, UNC goalkeeper Sassi Ammer saved Syracuse's initial shot but Lauren Brooks grabbed the rebound and put it back in from the left post.
The Orange lead lasted 63 seconds before UNC used a fast break off a restart to score a goal of its own. Craddock fed the ball to Gaudioso Radvany, who had just come into the game. The forward from Lawrence, N.J., deflected the ball behind SU keeper Leann Stiver from the left side to tie the game at 1-1.
The teams were even until the 32nd minute. On a penalty corner, senior Katie Ardrey inserted the ball straight to Craddock, who sent a rocket past Stiver and started an impressive stretch of offense for the Tar Heels. UNC scored three times in 1:02 to take a 4-1 lead into halftime. Just 24 seconds after Craddock's goal, sophomore Loren Shealy sent a ball across the cage, where it bounced off the SU goalkeeper. Loughran, a forward from Dublin, Ireland, grabbed it and sent it back in for a score. Thirty-four seconds after that, freshman Emily Wold connected with Craddock, who sent a hard shot past Stivers to put UNC up by three.
"I want to give a shout-out to our goalkeeper, Sassi Ammer," Shelton said. "I thought she had a critical save for us in the first half. Syracuse scored first and we answered right away, but then we had to make a critical save and she was there."
The Tar Heels added two more in the second half. In the 44th minute, Craddock's cross set up a play for Gaudioso Radvany, who scored her 12th goal of the season. And in the 56th minute, after Syracuse had pulled Stivers to try to gain an advantage with another field player, Craddock gathered a loose ball following a blocked shot and scored to make the game 6-1.
"Syracuse brought out the best in us," Shelton said. "You get to a final four and you want to play well. We knew we had to be focused, we knew we had to work hard, we knew we had to play as a team. We have firepower, but we haven't really seen it explode quite like that. But that was great. We want to be peaking at this time."
Craddock , a forward from Wolverhampton, England, set a school record for goals by a sophomore with 25 this season.
This marks the fourth consecutive year UNC has played in the NCAA title game. The Tar Heels won in 2009 and fell in overtime to Maryland in 2010 and 2011.
No. 1 UNC 6, No. 5 Syracuse 1
Scoring: SU - Lauren Brooks, 7:40; UNC - Jaclyn Gaudioso Radvany (Charlotte Craddock), 8:43); UNC - Craddock (Katie Ardrey), 31:58; UNC - Sinead Loughran, 32:33; UNC - Craddock (Emily Wold), 33:00; UNC - Gaudioso Radvany, 43:57; UNC - Craddock, 55:34
Shots: UNC 18 (11/7); SU 8 (3/5)
Penalty corners: UNC 8 (5/3); SU 3 (2/1)
Saves: UNC 6 (Sassi Ammer, 70:00, 6 saves, 1 goal allowed); SU 4 (Leann Stiver, 62:45, 4 saves, 5 goals allowed; Team, 7:15, 1 goal allowed)
Records: UNC 23-1, SU 19-3