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Syracuse women’s lacrosse: ACC Tournament guide, part I

It’s a whole new season for the Orange.

Colgate v Syracuse Photo by Nate Shron/Getty Images

The regular season is over and the postseason is about the begin. And boy do we have some doozies in store for the 2019 ACC Women’s Lacrosse Tournament, which is set to begin on late Wednesday morning in Chestnut Hill, Mass. We now know that the Syracuse Orange (14-3, 5-2 ACC) have the No. 4 seed and will face 5-seed Virginia. Here is what the top half of the bracket looks like for the 1st round matchups on Wednesday as the winners of these two games will face each other on Friday:

No. 1 Boston College (17-0, 7-0 ACC) vs. No. 8 Louisville (5-12, 0-7 ACC) 11 a.m. ET

The Eagles finished the season as one of the two remaining unbeaten teams in D1 women’s lacrosse (along with Maryland), and they had few problems along the way. It’s a squad that averaged 17.5 goals a game, while giving up just 9.8 per contest. Their most notable victories include Syracuse (14-12), Dartmouth (20-10), USC (12-9), Navy (18-5), Northwestern (22-17), North Carolina (14-8), Virginia (16-9), Notre Dame (13-9) & Duke (20-12).

Offensively, it doesn’t really get any better than the three-pronged senior attack of Sam Apuzzo (71 g, 25 a), Kenzie Kent (36 g, 58 a) and Dempsey Arsenault (52 g, 16 a). However, they are also backed up by junior midfielder Cara Urbank (41 g, 16 a), junior attacker Sheila Rietano (26 g, 10 a) and senior middie Taylor Walker (26 g, 7 a). Needless to say, this is an offense that is very difficult to stop.

Defensively, the Eagles are very aggressive on the ride and cause a lot of havoc on opposing clears. They also have a veteran backline in Elizabeth Miller, Christina Walsh and Brooke Troy (all seniors) as well as two solid goalies in sophomore Abbey Ngai and senior Lauren Daly. The latter has a 46% save rate this year, but Ngai took over the starting duties after the first third of the season and is also having a great year with an almost 51% save rate. BC is dominant in the draw circle. Apuzzo has pulled down 127 so far, with Arsenault and Miller getting 78 and 66 respectively. If you’re an Eagles fan, there is a lot to like about this team.

Louisville comes in as the 8-seed for the second year in a row. The Cardinals remain a work in progress in Coach Scott Teeter’s second year with the program. However, this team had four one goal losses to Vanderbilt, Duke, Virginia Tech and Delaware and could have finished closer to .500 if they had better execution. Louisville has just one senior, so look for this squad to improve in the years to come.

Their biggest offensive threat is their lone senior, attacker Tessa Chad (56 g, 6 a), but is backed up by several sophomores in Ally Hall (26 g, 12 a), Shayla Scanlon (26 g, 7 a) & Caroline Blalock (19 g, 10 a). Redshirt junior Rachel Florek has seen most of the action in goal this year and has a 40% save rate. That said, the Cardinals’ only path to the NCAAT at this point is to get the AQ. Not likely considering that the Eagles just beat them 19-6 this past weekend on the same field they’ll be using for the tournament.

No. 4 Syracuse (14-3, 5-2 ACC) vs. No. 5 Virginia (12-5, 3-4 ACC) 2 p.m. ET

As the seeding suggests, this could very well be the best game of the day. Both programs have rebounded strong after dismal 2018 finishes (9-10 for Syracuse, 10-10 for Virginia) and could have seeded spots in the NCAA Tournament.

The Orange head into the tournament with a lingering question not only with their consistency from game to game, but often from half to half. Syracuse has largely been unable to put much, if any, distance between themselves and their opponents as of late and have had a half dozen one goal games this year. This is a bit concerning given that they stumbled a little towards the end of the season with one goal wins over Duke and Virginia Tech, a six goal loss to North Carolina and a three goal win over a Cornell team that is unlikely, short of an Ivy League AQ, to make the NCAAT.

In all three of those wins (in addition to other games this year), Syracuse was poised to break the contest open, but failed to do so. This is a team that has a problem with putting teams away. However, it could also be said that it’s a squad that knows how to finish. They’re 5-1 in one goal games this year, which includes several situations where they were down late in the game. Given the fact that they have 14 victories under their belt, they’re the epitome of the legendary Oakland Raiders’ owner Al Davis quote: ”Just win, baby.”

The Orange do not have the types of flashy stats that one would expect from a top five program. However, what they have is lots of depth and players are rotated in constantly, which results in those said stats being spread out much more. Seven players have 20 or more points and there’s really another half dozen that have the potential to put shots away. Emily Hawryschuk and Nicole Levy are the leading scorers with 73 points (57 g, 16 a) and 53 points (27 g, 26 a) respectively while Meaghan Tyrrell and Megan Carney have both had solid freshman seasons. Tyrrell currently has 46 points (31 g, 15 a) while Carney has 39 (22 g, 17 a). Both Sam Swart and Mary Rahal have reached the 30 point mark this season as well, while Morgan Alexander has 22. SU is averaging a respectable 14 goals a game, but it really could be higher with better execution.

Defensively, the ‘Cuse has been rock solid all year long. Kerry Defliese, Sarah Cooper, Alexa Radziewicz and Ella Simkins have been the mainstays of an Orange backline that has allowed just 10 goals a game. Asa Goldstock has been in the cage for pretty much the entirety of the year and has a 43% save rate in addition to being the leader in ground balls for the team with 35.

The draw control, which was a constant problem last year, has improved considerably and there are several players who can switch in and out as the situation demands. Hawryschuk leads this category with 44, but Morgan Widner has been a force as of late and has 38 draws on the year so far. Cooper has another 30 while Braelie Kempney (another draw specialist) and Simkins have 23 and 22 respectively. Despite missing five games this year, Natalie Wallon has grabbed another 15 (in addition to having 16 points, 15 ground balls and 18 caused turnovers).

Virginia is currently an experienced top-10 team that has also struggled towards the end of the season, with losses to Boston College (16-9) and Maryland (16-6) and come from behind wins over struggling Penn. St. (16-13) and Virginia Tech squads (13-10), as well as a four goal win over Louisville (16-12). They have significant wins over Navy (15-12), Princeton (14-9), Loyola (12-9), James Madison (14-9) and Duke (17-12).

The Cavaliers rely heavily on three upperclassmen for their scoring. Senior midfielder Maggie Jackson leads the team in points with 64 (30 g, 34 a) while fellow senior attacker Avery Shoemaker has 61 (46 g, 15 a). Junior midfielder Sammy Mueller also has 61 points (40 g, 21 a). The scoring drops off a bit after this trio, but it would be a mistake to assume that the rest are irrelevant. Freshman and junior middies Lillie Kloak and Nora Bowen have reached the 30 point threshold with identical stats: 31 points (26 g, 5 a each). Sophomore midfielder Ashlyn McGovern has 26 goals on the year.

The Hoos’ defense is also laden with senior swith Allison Shields, Kaitlin Luzik, Sophie Aleece and juniors Lauren Martin and Ashley Stilo making significant contributions to the Virginia backline. Junior goalkeeper Charlie Campbell has had a good year with a 45% save rate. Jackson and Mueller also make up the majority of the Cavalier draw controls this year with 85 and 70 respectively.

Syracuse won the regular season meeting in the Dome back at the beginning of March, handing the Hoos their first loss of the year at 16-11. It was a contest that the Orange never trailed, taking a 10-5 lead at the break and extending it to seven early in the second half. The Cavaliers did make a belated comeback and closed it to three at 14-11 with a few minutes left before SU put the game away.

Despite the regular season contest, this could be one that goes down to the wire. While neither team is in desperate straits of making the NCAAT, there is much to play for in addition to advancing to the conference semis. A win on Wednesday would probably put the Orange squarely in the 4-5 spot for the NCAAT (and that would ultimately depend on the result of a likely North Carolina/Notre Dame semifinal). This is important since, barring an upset, the top four spots would have home field advantage in the quarterfinals. Virginia will probably get a 7- or 8-seed in that tournament, but a win would boost their resume. Both teams have had their Jekyll and Hyde moments this season and this game will probably come down to which team shows up with the most consistency.

I have broken this article into two parts mainly for those who just want to see what’s in store for Syracuse (which is Part 1). Having all of the info in one article would probably result in a tl;dr moment for some, but I do like to get as much info out as I can in articles. Part 2 will showcase the 2 vs. 7 matchup of North Carolina and Virginia Tech as well as the 3 vs. 6 game of Notre Dame and Duke.