For the first time in 2021, the Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse team was punched in the mouth.
After four games in which the Orange never trailed and basically cruised to big margins of victory, the team was finally presented their first challenge of the season on Sunday.
They met the challenge and emerged victorious, eventually getting past the No. 4 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 15-12, to sweep the pandemic-induced weekend double-header over their ACC rivals.
However, after making it look easy the first four times they played a Top-10 team, ‘Cuse came out “flat” for the first time this season, according to the words of head coach Gary Gait.
The first half was largely a collection of mistakes: costly turnovers, missing the mark on shots, and far too many fouls and penalties. All of this prevented the Orange from getting in any kind of offensive rhythm in the first half, and an offense averaging over 16 goals per game mustered only two in the game’s first 28 minutes.
Notre Dame, Top-5 team that they are, capitalized on these mistakes. The Irish took control of the action for most of the first half, scoring goals off transition and free-position chances that were the result of Orange mistakes. After Samantha Lynch scored her second goal with three minutes remaining in the half, the Notre Dame lead ballooned to 7-2.
It was Syracuse’s first time trailing the entire season, and what a deficit it was. The Orange were lucky to only be down 7-4 at the break after a couple late goals by the Tyrrell sisters.
It was feeling as though the Orange weren’t going to be able to pick themselves up off the canvas after a first half of getting knocked down, but the second half brought an explosion of Orange offense that quickly quelled those concerns.
The comeback was engineered through Katelyn Mashewske and the draw control game, which SU dominated 22-7. For the second straight game, Mashewske set a career high with 13 draw controls. She has stepped into the draw control void left by Emily Hawryschuk’s injury and taken the job completely for herself, turning herself into one of the best draw controllers in the country in just a matter of games. She was virtually automatic on Sunday. At one point, she won 12 in a row to help the Orange turn this into a possession game, which ‘Cuse dominated on the day at 62 percent according to Lacrosse Reference.
It’s not that the Irish allowed Syracuse back into the game by playing poorly, it’s simply that they couldn’t get the ball in the early portion of the second half.
Like, at all.
In fact, the Orange scored six goals in the second half before Notre Dame could even get a SHOT off. Yowza!
Notre Dame actually had a much better shooting day than Syracuse. The Irish shot 52 percent on the day to the Orange’s 39. The problem for them was that Syracuse took 15 more shots than they did. Thank you Katelyn Mashewske!
Second-Half Offense Finds Rhythm
The offense was led on the day by Meaghan Tyrrell’s balanced six points (3G, 3A). Younger sister Emma Tyrrell had a breakout game with a career-high hat trick and four points (3G, 1A), while Megan Carney led the team with four goals on the day (five points). Sierra Cockerille was a huge key to the ball movement, throwing in four assists on the day, while Sam Swart added three points of her own (2G, 1A).
The second half brought the return of the movement-oriented Syracuse offense. Instead of the static play of the first half, we saw the crisp passing and non-stop player movement that creates havoc for defenses. On the game, the ladies assisted on 12 of the 15 goals. That’s a phenomenal number that speaks to the strength of this offense being the concept of working together and sharing the ball.
When the offense is working their basketball-style weave the way they want, it’s an absolute thing of beauty for SU fans and an absolute web of confusion for opposing defenses. The movement is constant, creating questions for defenders about whether to stay with a player or let her move on and be marked by a teammate.
This was particularly evident on Carney’s second goal of the game, and fourth of the six-goal run to start the second half. Carney was eventually found on the crease by Emma Ward for a wide-open look, but it was what transpired before the finish that was so amazing.
Carney ran a looping route through the middle of the Irish defense, around the back of the goal on the right side, and back up in front of the goal on the left side where Ward found her. You could go back and watch that play a dozen times and watch a different, specific part of the play each time to see how it played out and how Notre Dame found trouble in defending it.
It was truly wonderful and just one example of how the combination of Mashewske’s draw control dominance and the motion offense combined to propel the Orange to their best win of the season.
We’ve seen this team win easy all season. On Sunday, we saw them win when presented with an actual obstacle. We saw their real fighting spirit for the first time. The kind of spirit you show when backed into a corner by a good, true Top-5 opponent.
We knew this team was talented. Now we know they’re tough, too.
: Highlights from the comeback win ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/ohSoSP8MTL— Syracuse Women's Lax (@CuseWLAX) March 15, 2021
The ladies will be taking on the Fightin’ Byes next week, so we won’t be able to see them in action again until two weeks from now.
They’ll be back home on Saturday, March 27 at 5 PM to play ACC foe Virginia Tech Hokies. That game will be televised on ACC Network, so make sure you check it out to get a look at the most dominant team on the Hill. Let’s Go Orange!!