Field Hockey

Liz Sack has ‘stayed the course’ over her 4 years at Syracuse

Editor’s note: Syracuse field hockey head coach Ange Bradley has declined to partake in interviews with The Daily Orange following several requests. As a result, she isn’t quoted in this story. The Daily Orange aims to provide in-depth coverage of all SU sports and part of that coverage comes through speaking to head coaches. The D.O. will continue to request Bradley for interviews.

When Liz Sack first stepped foot on Syracuse’s campus as a sophomore in high school, she was relieved to see bare winter ground. Two hours later, Sack trudged through 6 inches of snow to her car with doubts about attending Syracuse.

After her varsity high school coach pushed her to give it another chance, Sack returned for a camp prior to her senior year. She decided that although it may be a reach, Syracuse fit best.

“I thought if I don’t challenge myself now, when am I ever?” Sack said.

From being unsure about attending a top-tier program to playing in 67 of 82 possible games, the senior forward has faced challenges over her four years at SU. Since switching to forward after her sophomore season, Sack has accumulated 25 points. She’s started in all but two games for No. 2 Syracuse (14-2, 4-2 Atlantic Coast) this season, cementing her spot as a forward for the potent offense.

“Going into here I remember telling (SU head coach) Ange (Bradley) that I wanted to be pushed out of my comfort zone,” Sack said. “Which 100 percent has happened.”

Following her sophomore season, Sack had surgery on both legs to fix injuries sustained during the year. After coming within a goal of a national championship in 2014, Sack was tasked with not only injury recovery but also adjusting to a new position.

Sack spent that summer rehabbing at Syracuse since she wouldn’t have been as diligent working out at home, she said. She received custom workouts from Corey Parker, the team’s strength and conditioning coach.

But something still didn’t feel right. Sack was always a defender who played technically sound, without utilizing the flash of some her teammates. This made her transition to forward especially difficult, as SU’s forwards are expected to think outside the box and find creative ways to put the ball in the net.

After not recording a point in the first five games of her junior season, Sack began to question her new role on the team. She met with assistant coach Tara Zollinger before facing then-No. 4 Virginia in late September to sort things out.

“It was kind of like a coming to Jesus kind of meeting,” Sack said. “Alright, this is what I’m here for, stay the course.”

In the next game following the meeting, Sack scored her first collegiate goal, marking the start of Sack’s return to consistent play. She went on to start every game for Syracuse in the NCAA tournament, including a pair of two-goal performances against UMass and Princeton.

Now in her senior season, Sack’s relentlessness drives her success. Opposing teams fail to get the ball across midfield without a challenge from the former back.

“(I am) definitely more willing to take risks because I have more experience at that position,” Sack said. “Risks at that part of the field are so much more welcomed than risks in the back part of the field.”

In Syracuse’s most recent game against Indiana, Sack patiently waited for the defense to make a move. As an opponent began her backstroke, Sack changed of direction and intercepted a pass.

“It’s always dangerous when Liz enters the forward third for us with speed,” junior back Lies Lagerweij said. “Especially if she lifts that ball off the carpet, you know it’s going to be dangerous.”

Later in the game, Sack challenged the defense. She swooped the ball off the turf and juggled it on her stick. She worked past three defenders, into the circle. As the field opened up, Sack allowed the ball to take a single bounce before slapping it into the top corner of the net.

For the second straight year, Sack is heating up as the Orange enter the postseason. But this year, Sack doesn’t have to step outside her comfort zone to make plays.

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