It was slow going in the beginning but once they shook off the rust, the No. 7 Syracuse Orange (1-0) used a plethora of scorers to bombard the UConn Huskies (0-1) en route to a crushing 23-11 performance on Friday evening in the Carrier Dome.
Despite the end result, it was the Huskies who jumped out early on. They won the first six draw controls and eventually nine out of the first ten to take a 6-4 lead with almost 12 minutes left in the first half. Up to that point, SU led only once briefly at 4-3. The Orange scored five straight goals to take a 9-6 lead with 4:39 left in the half. UConn responded with a pair of goals to cut the Syracuse lead to just one at the break.
The second half was an entirely different story. Orange attacker Emily Hawryschuk scooped a ground ball in barely 90 seconds into the second half. Syracuse would tack on six more goals over the next seven minutes to take a commanding 16-8 lead with 21:38 left to play. The Huskies would reply with a pair of goals, but it was too little too late. SU would score seven of the last eight goals to take the season opener.
The Turning Point
The Hawryschuk goal at the beginning of the second half could be an arguable turning point as it opened up a potentially tight game. However...
At the 11:38 mark, Coach Gary Gait called a timeout after UConn freshman Sydney Watson (who would lead the Huskies with four goals, an assist and eight draw controls) scored to give UConn a 6-4 lead. Up to that point, the Huskies were dominating the draw control circle, winning nine out of ten. The Orange would win the next three draw controls and score the next five goals. Midfielder Mary Rahal put the ‘Cuse up for good at the 7:47 mark of the first half when she raced forward from the top of the arc on a free position shot to fire one past UConn goalie Madison Hooper. SU led 7-6 at that point and would outscore the Huskies 16-5 and outdraw them 17-9 (both teams ended up with 18 draws apiece) for the rest of the game.
A dozen Orange players found the back of the net on Friday evening, which shows just how much of an offensive threat this team can be this year. Nicole Levy (3 goals, 2 assists) and Alie Jimerson (1 g, 4 a) both finished with five points each. Hawryschuk (4 g) and Riley Donahue (1 g, 3 a) finished with four points each. Vanessa Constantino and Neena Merola both had three goals/points each. Kelzi Van Atta (2 g), Bella Recchion (2 g), Taylor Gait (1 g, 1 a), Sam Swart (1 g, 1 a), Molly Carter (1 g, 1 a) and Cara Quimby (2 a) all had two points. Rahal finishes the list with another goal/point. This offense will wear down a lot of teams this season as they did with UConn last night.
Asa Goldstock had a good night in goalie with 11 saves against 10 goals (52% save rate) as well as four ground balls. Freshman Hannah Van Middelem saw some shots in her short time as the back up. In about eight minutes of playing time, she had three saves against one goal (75% save rate). UConn scored only once on nine free position attempts. Van Middelem was the top goalie recruit in the country this year and having two good goalies will give Coach Gait a lot of options. This doesn’t even factor in junior goalkeeper Bri Stahrr, who has seen some action over the last couple of years and has done a solid job when called upon.
Midfielder Kerry Defliese led the Orange in caused turnovers with four as well as picking up three ground balls. Julie Cross had eight draw controls. Morgan Widner had an off night, getting just one draw control. Widner was one of the top specialists last year and will almost certainly contribute a lot as the season continues. However, having two good players in the circle shows that, once again, there are options if either has an off-game.
There are two mentions in this category. The first was the transition sequence which finished off a five goal run late in the first half to put SU up 9-6. Goldstock launched the ball about 50-60 yards upfield to a sprinting midfielder Emily Resnick. Resnick sped forward, found Levy to her left and passed it. Levy caught the pass, pitched it behind her back to Hawryschuk in front of the goal, who dumped it in.
It was Levy again with another big play with 15:48 left in the game. Levy took a pass from Donahue and tossed another behind the back shot, this time past UConn goalie Grace Breshlian to make it an 18-10 game.
Draw controls were one of the keys to eventual Orange success. One of the reasons why the Huskies were able to stay in the game early on was because they dominated the draw circle in the first half. Once Syracuse started picking these up, the offense started to click and that blew the game wide open.
No Fall Ball. Due to the mumps outbreak in the fall, SU did not play any preseason contests last year and I suspect that this was one of the reasons for the slow start. There were a number of new rules implemented this year in women’s lacrosse (and the Orange had no opportunity to work with these) and three of the biggest ones are the following:
Quick restarts. Up to this year, play would stop for the whistle and the refs would have to waste time getting players into the exact positions as of the whistle blow. Players can now keep moving (the only stipulation is that the player with the ball has to start where the whistle blew) and I’d say that it makes the game flow much better now.
If the player is fouled while taking a shot on goal, it counts if it goes in. Prior to this, the shot would be whistled off regardless of the outcome. A likely goal could, sometimes would be replaced with a not so probable free position shot.
Draw control circle. Only three players from each team can enter the draw circle during draw controls now. Gone are the massive scrums that would occur once this took place. Having seen this in play now, I’d say that it’s a very interesting look as it’s obviously much less crowded. Player speed definitely makes a big difference now. I do wonder if this had an impact on the early draw control problems for SU since they, as stated above, had no chance to see this during fall ball.
The Orange will travel out west to play the Oregon Ducks next Sunday, February 18. Oregon will not start their season until the 16th. From what I can gather, this game will be played in Portland rather than Eugene. The Ducks finished 9-8 last year and were picked to finish fourth in the newly formed Pac-12 conference this year (which becomes the third P5 conference alongside the Big Ten and the ACC to add a women’s lacrosse conference).
There are some major Orange ties to Oregon as second year head coach Katrina Dowd was an assistant at SU under Gait for a year (2012, which was the year that SU first made it to the NCAA Tournament final). Her assistants are SU alums Michele Tumolo and Becca Block, who were also on that 2012 squad and were major impact players on offense and defense for the Orange.