In a rare outdoor home game due to the women’s basketball team hosting the first couple of rounds of the NCAA Tournament (they beat Fordham on Saturday afternoon and will face South Dakota State in the second round on Monday; congrats ladies!), the No. 4/4 Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse team faced off against No. 8/12 Notre Dame at Christian Brothers Academy on Sunday afternoon. On a chilly but clear day (game was postponed from Saturday due to several inches of snow and wind chill in the 20’s), the Orange (10-2, 3-1 ACC) gained its first win over the Fighting Irish (9-1, 2-1 ACC) in three years with a dramatic and very hard fought 10-9 come-from-behind victory.
The game went back and forth for the first twelve minutes of the game. The ‘Cuse gained an early 1-0 advantage less than three minutes into the contest when Emily Hawryschuk found a wide open Nicole Levy cutting in front of the goal. Hawryschuk, who was moving to goal in the same direction, had pulled off the defender and pitched it ahead to Levy, who got a low shot past Notre Dame goalie Samantha Giacolone for the score.
The Irish responded over four minutes later with a pair of goals by Samantha Lynch and Andie Aldave 42 seconds apart to take a 2-1 lead. The see-saw battle continued with the Orange answering quickly with their own pair of scores. Sam Swart took a Mary Rahal pass, spun around an Irish defender and found the back of the net. Cara Quimby followed that goal up a minute later when she caught a caught a Levy pass one-handed while getting open in front of the goal. The redshirt junior midfielder pivoted and put it past Giacolone to give Syracuse the lead back at 3-2 with 19:51 left in the half. Maddie Howe for Notre Dame and Hawryschuk traded goals to maintain the SU lead at 4-3 at the 18:37 mark. However, the rest of the half was pretty much all Irish as they went on a 5-1 run to end the half leading 8-5.
The Orange started out the scoring in the 2nd half when Asa Goldstock jogged upfield over the midfield line and tossed the ball to a wide open Rahal who took it all the way in for the score. Rahal’s goal at the 27:16 mark cut the Notre Dame lead to 8-6 and it would be the only goal scored by either team for the next 17 minutes as both defenses locked down. The Irish finally broke the impasse at the 10:17 mark when Howe scored on a man-up situation to put put them back up by three.
With time steadily draining away and their chances to win dwindling, Syracuse found a new sense of urgency in those last 10 minutes. It looked eerily similar to last year’s game in South Bend when the Orange had trailed by four also with about 10 minutes left. In that game, the ‘Cuse found a way to claw their way back to a 10-10 tie before falling in overtime. But this year the Orange were able to complete the comeback with a four goal run.
It began when Sam Swart managed to get a rebound off of her free position attempt to cut the Irish lead back to two at 9-7 with 7:38 remaining in the game. About 100 seconds later, Quimby caught a Vanessa Costantino pass in traffic just in front of the goal and found enough room to dump it over Giacolone’s shoulder, making it a one goal game with 5:57 left. Hawryschuk finished the run with a pair of goals. The first came at the 4:28 mark when she calmly rifled a free position shot into the back of the net to tie it up. The game winner came less than a minute later when she spun and weaved past and through several Irish defenders to get a point blank score with just 3:38 left to play.
Notre Dame won the ensuing draw control and had their best chance to tie it with 2:28 left when Howe wove in and fired a shot almost point blank. However, Goldstock made the critical save and the ball bounced off to the left. A scrum ensued with several players taking a tumble while trying to get the ball. A foul was eventually called on the Irish that left defender Alexa Radziewicz shaken up for several seconds before she finally was able to get up and resume play. A long pass by Goldstock was intercepted by Notre Dame just seconds later and it gave the Irish one final opportunity to send it into overtime.
However, a pass by Savannah Buchanan to a cutting Howe was too high. Howe vainly reached for it, but it sailed past her and Goldstock was waiting to pick up the ground ball with just 47 seconds left. Syracuse was able to successfully clear and run out the clock to preserve the win.
Quick Stick.— Syracuse Women's Lax (@CuseWLAX) March 19, 2019
All Orange now. pic.twitter.com/JN1jKLZ2cM
- Shots: Notre Dame 26, Syracuse 24
- Shots on Goal: Notre Dame 20, Syracuse 18
- Turnovers: Syracuse 16, Notre Dame 15
- Clears: Syracuse 21-23, Notre Dame 14-17
- Ground Balls: Syracuse 18, Notre Dame 18
- Draw Controls: Notre Dame 11, Syracuse 10
- Free Position Shots: Notre Dame 3-5, Syracuse 1-5
Hawryschuk (4 g, 1 a), Swart (2 g, 2 gb), Quimby (2 g, 1 gb, 1 ct), Rahal (1 g, 1 a, 3 gb, 1 ct), Levy (1 g, 1 a, 1 dc), Costantino (1 a), Sarah Cooper (3 gb, 1 ct, 2 dc), Radziewicz (2 gb, 2 ct), Grace Fahey (1 gb, 2 ct, 3 dc), Ella Simkins (1 gb, 2 ct), Lila Nazarian (2 gb), Megan Carney (1 gb, 1 ct), Morgan Widner & Julie Cross (2 dc each), Goldstock (1 a, 2 gb, 11 saves)
The Turning Point
There were two aspects to the turning point on Sunday. The first manifested itself in a broader sense. The defense held Notre Dame to just one goal in the entire 2nd half (the lone score was courtesy of a man-up situation). Their “not one step backwards” approach in the final 30 minutes frustrated a number of Irish attempts to extend the lead. Their rock steady presence enabled the Orange offense to settle down and make the comeback in the final eight minutes of the game.
With under eight minutes remaining to play and Syracuse trailing 9-6, Swart was knocked down by defender Makenna Pearsall while trying to evade a double team, which set up a free position attempt close the top of the fan. The sophomore midfielder darted in and took a shot, which was deflected by Giacolone. However, the ball bounced back up to Swart’s stick, who promptly dumped a shot over the Notre Dame goalie as she was trying to get up from the initial save. The much needed score brought the ‘Cuse back within striking range at 9-7 with 7:38 left. It was the first goal for the Orange in almost 20 minutes and provided a much needed momentum boost.
Over a minute and a half later, the Orange struck again. With the shot clock running down, Costantino arched a short pass over two Irish defenders to Quimby, who had snuck in behind the Notre Dame defense. With just six seconds left on the shot clock, Quimby grabbed the pass, pivoted and overhanded a shot past Giacolone as the several Irish players collapsed on her. The timing was perfect and Syracuse had reduced it to a one goal game with 5:57 left.
It came down to Hawryschuk to finish the job. The junior attacker tried to force her way into the teeth of the Notre Dame defense with the shot clock again running down and forced a free position attempt from the left side of the fan. Hawryschuk wound up and took a step before sending a bullet past Giacolone with 4:28 left to tie the game. Less than a minute later, she worked her way in starting from behind the left side of the goal while being hounded by Pearsall. Hawryschuk moved towards the left side of the fan, faked to her left and moved right along the upper line of the fan. She drove in, pivoted to her left and attracted the attention of Aldave, who moved over to back up Pearsall.
However, Aldave and Pearsall got tangled up (the latter had fallen down) and Hawryschuk saw her opportunity. She pushed forward to goal before two other Irish defenders could collapse in on her and snuck a shot low past Giacolone, who was anticipating a higher shot selection. Syracuse had the lead for the first time since the 18:35 mark of the first half (Hawryschuk gave SU the lead at that point as well) with just 3:38 left in the game.
The momentum had switched to the Orange, but Notre Dame won the ensuing draw control and had one last opportunity to tie the game. The Irish patiently passed the ball around, waiting for a good shot. At the 2:28 mark, they found it. Howe took the pass from Buchanan and rolled along the 12 meter arc before suddenly striking through three Syracuse defenders. The move put her right in front of the goal crease as Defliese and Cooper moved in to block her off. Howe took a high shot at point blank range, but Goldstock blocked it and the ball ricocheted along the left goal line extended before the Orange finally gained possession due to a foul. The Irish would not have another scoring opportunity for the rest of the contest.
The Syracuse Offense (or they took care of things when they needed to): The offensive struggle with passes occurred once again on Sunday, particularly in the 1st half. There were a lot of errant passes that shortchanged opportunities for Orange scores. Although this was largely cleaned up in the 2nd half, SU still had trouble trying to get past Giacolone for a score and for 22 minutes of the 2nd half, could only manage one goal (which was a nice transition score from Goldstock to Rahal early on). However, with the game truly on the line, the offense responded once again as they have in other games this year. Swart, Quimby and Hawryschuk scored when the ‘Cuse desperately needed someone to produce.
Defenses: Both defenses had a strong game, despite SU getting the last four goals of the contest. I predicted in the previous article that this one could very well be a defensive fight, and it was certainly that. Notre Dame’s man to man hounded the Syracuse attack all afternoon and largely held it in check until late in the game. The ‘Cuse defense had some issues early, particularly with fouls (the Irish scored half of of their 1st period goals off of free positions and a man-up opportunity), but adjusted very well in the 2nd half. The Irish managed just nine shots and a lone goal after halftime. Arguably, the 2nd half was probably the best the Orange backline has played all year.
Goalies: In addition to the overall defense, both Goldstock and Giacolone performed admirably on Sunday afternoon. Goldstock had 11 saves for a 55% save rate and was instrumental in keeping the game within reach for SU. None more so than the save she had against Howe with only a couple of minutes left . She is now at a 48% save rate for the year. Giacolone caused all sorts of problems for SU and finished with eight saves. She has an astounding 53% save rate this season.
A Tale of Two Halves: The first half belonged to the Irish for the most part and the stats tell the story. Notre Dame outshot Syracuse 17-9 (13-7 shots on goal), had eight turnovers to SU’s 10, had more ground balls (10-7) and won more draw controls (8-6). The turnovers are particularly telling as those were largely errant passes on the offensive end that cost Syracuse opportunities to shoot, much less score. The Irish, on the other hand, took advantage of a number of Orange miscues. UND had five free position shots and scored on three of them, which was the difference as they took an 8-5 lead into the break. The second half was another story altogether as the stats heavily favored the ‘Cuse. Syracuse outshot Notre Dame 15-9 (11-7 shots on goal), cut the turnovers down significantly (had six to UND’s seven), won the ground ball (10-7) and draw control battles (4-3) and allowed no free position shots. The Orange outscored Notre Dame 5-1 in the second half and 4-0 in the crucial last 10 minutes.
Draw Controls: I touched on this above, but I wanted to expand on this. Notre Dame did win the draw control battle 11-10, but they also won the first six of the game. Syracuse started with Hawryschuk, but when she struggled (which was one of the few areas that she had issues with on Sunday), Cross and Widner stepped in and stabilized the situation. After that initial Irish burst, the Orange would outdraw UND 10-5 the rest of the way.
The Orange return to the Dome on Wednesday to round out a three game homestand against Albany (5-4) at 6 p.m. ET. Syracuse beat the Great Danes last year, 19-12. Albany’s new head coach, Katie Rowan, is no stranger to ‘Cuse women’s lacrosse fans, having tallied 396 points while donning an Orange uniform from 2006-09. She was an assistant coach at both Albany (2011-2012) and Syracuse (2010 as a volunteer assistant and 2013-15 as an assistant coach) before being named the head coach at Wagner (where interestingly enough, Michelle Tumolo, another Orange offensive great is currently head coaching). She took the Seahawks to the NCAAs twice (2016 & 2018) through two Northeast Tournament championships before being named Albany’s head coach for 2019.