WLAX Home Opener Preview: No. 2 Syracuse vs. No. 4 Maryland

Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Barring a two-job meltdown, every Monday, I will make it a point to highlight what I think are key points and matchups to focus in on. This Sunday, the No. 2 Orange will kick off its home opener against No. 4 Maryland at 1 p.m.

Last year, Syracuse traveled to College Park and snapped Maryland's 36-game home winning streak - a mark that ranked fifth in the nation in all Division I sports. It was also head coach Cathy Reese's first regular season loss at home in her six-year tenure. This Sunday, Maryland will make the trek to snowy Syracuse and into the warm confines of the Carrier Dome for the first time.

X-Factor: Draw controls.

Syracuse attacker Kailah Kempney burst onto the scene as a freshman last season, recording a team leading 90 draw controls last season, shattering a record held previously by Lindsay Rogers (56DC) in 2009. Overnight, she became a valuable asset for the Orange, both on the circle and as a scoring threat. Kempney emerges as a viable option to an offense that requires close attention to Michelle Tumolo and Alyssa Murray. Last year, Kempney found the back of the net 37 times. No sophomore slump for Kempney, I expect her to get more looks, especially if opponents faceguard Tumolo or Murray.

On the other hand, Maryland lost Karri Ellen Johnson who lead her team on the circle with 78 draw controls. The Terps will look to Tewaaraton Award winner Katie Schwarzmann, who, last year was second behind Johnson with 52. Schwarzmann's junior campaign was about as well rounded one could get - 72 goals and 22 assists.

I'm going to make a bold prediction and say that the team who controls the circle and makes the least mistakes will come out on top.

Matchup To Watch: Katie Schwarzmann vs. Becca Block

As a former defender myself, I will be paying close attention to this matchup on the field this Sunday. Block held Schwarzmann to one goal in last year's game in College Park. She was second on the team in draw controls (47), ground balls (34) and caused turnovers (14) for the 2012 season. Becca and her twin sister, Linley add to the Orange's depth in the midfield, specifically in defensive transition.

Freshman Take:

The Orange brought in this season's No. 1 recruiting class in women's Division I lacrosse. Heading that class is Niskayuna, N.Y. native, Kayla Treanor. During her senior season in high school, Treanor eclipsed 95 points and has already started off on the right foot, totaling five goals and one assist against Jacksonville and five goals versus Team USA in the Champion's Challenge.

Her freshman counterparts, most notably Caroline Webster, Erica Bodt and Kelly Cross, will see ample time as well.

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