Danielle Bernstein of Inside Lacrosse was kind enough to answer a few questions of mine regarding Syracuse's home opener against Maryland. The deBeer Women's Media Poll has the Orange tabbed as the preseason No. 1, receiving five first place votes. The Terps are right behind them at No. 4.
CW: After starting 2-2 last season, Syracuse headed to College Park, snapped Maryland's 36-game home winning streak and captured its first win in program history, edging the Terps 10-9. What did you learn about this game in particular about the Orange?
DB: When you look back at last season, I think this is a game where people really said, "OK, Syracuse is the real deal." Their early schedule was brutal and I don't think many people thought they would come out of that stretch with a 3-2 record. I think it also really showed that the Orange are one of the elite teams in Division I in terms of skill and athleticism. A lot of teams are skilled, but there are very few with the top-to-bottom athleticism and speed that Syracuse has, and I think that game really showed that.
CW: Both teams have tremendous offensive and defensive fire power. What is going to separate these two teams in terms of getting the W? Keys to the game?
DB: I think in an early season game like this, fitness comes into play - which team is more in shape at this point in the season to play a fast-paced game this early. That being said, I think Syracuse has an advantage having been playing longer than most teams have been. [Defender] Becca Block did a tremendous job on Katie Schwarzmann in this game last year and I think the ability of the Maryland defense to slow down all the weapons that Syracuse has on attack will be a huge part of this game. Likewise, I think limiting Schwarzmann's opportunities will be key for the Syracuse defense. The draws will be a huge part of this game. I like Kailah Kempney for the Orange but I think Schwarzmann has been a difference maker on the draw so many times, whether it's as the person doing the draw or coming off the circle. The game can be won or lost here.
CW: Last year, the Orange played one of the toughest schedules in the nation. In your opinion, how did this schedule help prepare them for their championship run? Do you think the Orange have what it takes to make it back to the promise land this season?
DB: A tough schedule is always going to better prepare you for some of the things you might see down the road. I think playing all those teams - Northwestern, Virginia, Florida, Maryland - so early and coming out of that with success set the tone for them for the season. Having that confidence certainly can help fuel a run in the postseason. I definitely think Syracuse can get back to the championship, if not win their first title. They are a very talented team with some great depth. I've heard great things about what Erica Bodt and Kayla Treanor are bringing to the midfield as freshmen, which will give them more balance, particularly on offense. They're our preseason No. 1 for a reason. they say staying at the top is tougher than getting there, so I'm interested to see how this team responds now that they're entering the season with a target on their back.
DB: I've never been good at calling games, but I can take a stab at it. I'm going to go Syracuse wins 12-11.