Both the No. 7/9 Syracuse Orange and RV/NA Notre Dame Fighting Irish came into this weekend’s game needing a win for different reasons. For the Orange, it was to establish momentum for another long week of games (four in eight days), live to stay in the top 10 for another week and get its first ACC win.
For the Fighting Irish, it was to break out of a three game slump, get above .500 and try to avoid a situation where they might not make the NCAA Tournament in a couple of months. SU (6-3, 0-2 ACC) could not overcome a sluggish start and a plethora of mistakes to fall 11-10 in overtime to Notre Dame (6-5, 2-3 ACC) on a cold, cloudy Saturday afternoon in South Bend.
Once again, draw controls were a problem for the Orange as the Irish won the first eight of the game and controlled the tempo for the entire first half. Notre Dame jumped out to a 5-1 lead midway through the first half thanks to four quick goals in the first six minutes or so of the game. The teams would trade goals for the rest of the half as the Irish took a 6-2 lead at the break. The Syracuse offense was stymied by a series of bad passes, fouls and turnovers and could not get into any rhythm throughout this time.
A pair of Erin McBride goals a little over eight minutes into the second half gave Notre Dame their largest lead of the game at 8-3. Vanessa Constantino’s goal at the 20:10 mark marked the beginning of the Orange comeback. Six minutes later, Mary Rahal scored off of a Riley Donahue feed to bring SU within three at 8-5. Notre Dame regained the four goal advantage when Kathleen Roe broke an 11 minute scoring drought to make it 9-5.
The offense, which had been largely dormant up to this point, finally woke up, scoring four straight goals over the next six minutes. Sam Swart’s man-up goal at the 4:14 mark tied the game at 9, but the Irish responded a minute later to regain the advantage. Once again, the Orange responded and tied the game again with just 2:23 remaining on a Nicole Levy goal.
Notre Dame would get the ensuing draw control, but couldn’t get a good shot off and the game went into overtime.
Syracuse had an opportunity in the extra time when Kelzi Van Atta gained possession of the draw control. However, the Notre Dame defense would not give any easy openings. With the shot clock running down, Swart took a shot in traffic that was saved by Irish goalie Samantha Giacolone and rolled out towards the right corner. It looked like the ball was backed up by Syracuse, but after a short conference between two of the referees, the ball was awarded to Notre Dame (looking at the replay, it could have gone either way, but at the time of the game, I thought it was our ball).
The Irish moved the ball downfield and with just 23 seconds left in the overtime period, Savannah Buchanan found Andie Aldave cutting into the middle. Aldave took the pass in front of the goal and sent it past Asa Goldstock to give Notre Dame the win.
Notre Dame outshot Syracuse 31-28 overall and 22-18 on goal. The Irish had more turnovers at 17-15, but won the groundball battle 17-13. The Orange were 18-22 on clears while the Irish were 16-17. Neither side did particularly well in free position shots, with SU going 2-6 while Notre Dame was 1-5. Draw controls went to the Irish 13-10.
Levy led the ‘Cuse in scoring with five points (4 g, 1 a), Donahue had three points (2 g, 1 a) as well as two ground balls and Taylor Gait had a goal and an assist. Defensively, Alexa Radziewicz ended up with three caused turnovers while Ella Simkins had a pair of ground balls. Goldstock had a good performance in goal with 11 saves against an equal number of goals for a 50% save percentage (plus a caused turnover and a ground ball). In addition to Van Atta’s draw control in overtime, they were shared equally by Radziewicz, Julie Cross and Kerry Defliese with three each.
I could go with the turnover in overtime, but I thought that the turning point was the first 15 minutes of the game. Notre Dame dominated that stretch, having possession for roughly 12 of those minutes and scored almost half of their goals (5) to establish a 5-1 lead. Syracuse could not get going until about the last 11 minutes of regulation and did not look comfortable for much of the game. Notre Dame was patient on the offensive end and took SU out of their rhythm. It was just enough to stymie the Orange and pull out the overtime win.
Draw Control Blues: After looking pretty good against Harvard in the second half and through the Cornell game, the draw control problem reared its ugly head once again on Saturday. Notre Dame grabbed the first eight draw controls (SU would get the last one before the half) and while the Orange did better in the second half (outdrew the Irish 8-5 and gained the draw in overtime), the first half was a disaster in the draw circle. It enabled Notre Dame to establish the momentum throughout almost the entire first half.
Offensive problems: For the second game in a row, the offense had problems for large chunks of time, and gave up possession time after time through either fouls, bad shots or outright turnovers. I said after the Cornell game that this problem was largely papered over due to Goldstock’s fantastic performance in goal (she stopped 76% of the Big Red shots) and that this could be an issue in the future. Goldstock had a good game, no doubt about it. A 50% save rate is nothing to be ashamed of as she and the defense in general kept Syracuse in the game.
First Half: Between the draw controls and the offensive issues, this was probably the worst half SU has played this season. Notre Dame controlled this half in almost every aspect and if it wasn’t for the defense, this game could really have gotten out of hand by halftime. Outside of the first six minutes where the defense gave up four goals pretty quickly, the Irish offense was shut down for the rest of the half. If SU had found any rhythm at all in this half, there is a very good chance that the ‘Cuse would have walked out of South Bend with a victory.
It wasn’t all Orange offensive mistakes that led to problems in this game. Notre Dame played good defense throughout the game and at times did force Syracuse to take some bad shots. Giacolone for the Irish had eight saves against 10 goals, but had half of those in the critical first half against only two goals allowed. Notre Dame’s defense deserves partial credit for SU’s offensive problems on Saturday.
The Orange defense, outside of the first six minutes or so, played well, giving up just seven goals in the remaining 52 or so minutes afterwards. They are a large chunk of the reason why SU was able to make a comeback late in the game.
Syracuse has no time to dwell on this loss as they travel to Evanston, Ill. to play No. 11/11 Northwestern (6-3) on Monday afternoon at 2pm ET. The Orange edged the Wildcats 5-3 last year in Hempstead, N.Y. in nasty weather conditions.