On Saturday afternoon in the final Dome game of the regular season, the No. 3 Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse team continued to find new ways of showing us how good they are in a 16-7 drubbing of the No. 4 Boston College Eagles.
The victory, which improved their record to 12-2 (8-2) to close the regular season, was a complete one on both ends of the field, as the Orange made a statement coming back from their disappointing, last-minute loss against the Eagles on Thursday night.
Playing without Megan Carney, who picked up a significant-looking injury in Thursday’s game, the offense looked like they somehow didn’t miss a beat. Somehow.
I’ll be honest, I’m quite baffled by how good this team truly is. When I think about the (likely) season-ending injuries this team has suffered to Emily Hawryschuk and Megan Carney, two of their best players and All-Americans, it’s crazy to me that this offense just keeps producing at such a high level. I figured the team was going to have a tough time on Saturday after the emotionally crushing losses of the game to BC and of Carney, but instead the opposite was true as they played their best game all-around since early in the season when they were steamrolling teams. Here’s what coach Gary Gait had to say about it:
“Being able to regroup and make some adjustments makes a huge difference and allowed us to play a much better game than we did on Thursday night. We’re super happy with the way that we played, and it was a great opportunity to show that we can make adjustments and that we’re better than what we showed on Thursday. I’m happy with the effort from top to bottom”.
Offensively, efficiency was the name of the game for the Orange, especially early on. For the game, they shot 16-of-23 (70 percent), which is exceptional, but it was even better than that in the early going. In the first half, SU shot 10-of-12 (83 percent). The Orange shooters simply put every shot on cage, forcing BC goalie Rachel Hall to make a save every time a shot was released. When you put that level of constant pressure on a goalie, you’re going to create havoc and put up big numbers. Put the ball on cage and good things will happen.
The team was also efficient in taking care of the ball, something that BC was not. Even though the Eagles won draw controls, 15-10, they also turned it over 18 times (seven of which were caused by the Orange). Meanwhile, SU turned it over only 11 times, and even with that number, most of those came late when the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt. All-around, the combination of high-percentage shooting with taking care of the ball made the Orange offense too much for BC to contain in this one.
Defensively, the coaching staff decided to once again use Grace Fahey to face-guard BC’s star, Charlotte North, and have the rest of the defense in their usual zone. Unlike on Thursday, when the BC offense found pockets in the defense to put up 14 goals, Saturday’s approach worked to near perfection. The zone did a much better job of closing gaps and collapsing on cutters to force turnovers.
On top of that, when BC did get shots off, Asa Goldstock was there to make a play. The veteran backstop made nine saves while only giving up seven goals (56 save percentage), her most saves in a game since making 11 against Notre Dame back in mid-March.
Oh, and Charlotte North? Yea, she didn't have a point. Awesome recovery for the SU defense, holding one of the best offenses in the country to their season-low of seven goals and looking like the best version of themselves for the first time in a while.
: Ending ACC regular season play . pic.twitter.com/AXV6OwKIgX— Syracuse Women's Lax (@CuseWLAX) April 24, 2021
The Orange were led on the day by a career day from Emma Tyrrell, who finished with a career-high in points (7) and goals (6). She also picked up four draw controls to complete the all-around great game. Sister Meaghan Tyrrell had a good day with four points (2G, 2A), while Emma Ward recorded her third straight hat trick (and fifth overall). Sierra Cockerille (2G, 1A) and Sam Swart (1G, 2A) added in three points games, as well.
The scoring was actually started by BC, who suffered their first loss of the season when scoring first (10-1). The Eagles scored 54 seconds in looking like they were hungry for a weekend sweep, but the Orange swiftly put a stop to those aspirations by scoring the next eight goals of the game, a run from which BC never recovered.
The first three ‘Cuse goals were scored in a flurry of 59 seconds by Cockerille, Swart, and a Tyrrell sisters connection. The fourth goal was a fantastic effort by Emma Tyrrell, who roll-dodged away from her defender, and then switched hands mid-dodge to keep her stick away and finish with a goal.
The eight-goal run helped push the Orange to a big 10-4 halftime advantage, and they coasted in the second half as BC never got closer than five goals the rest of the way.
It was just a complete game from start to finish, in almost every aspect. The defense played lights out, causing mayhem and creating turnovers. And the offense looked like they didn’t miss a beat in the immediate absence of Megan Carney. They played their usual weave beautifully, sharing the ball and creating opportunities all over the field.
I don't know about you, but when Carney went down, I immediately thought that was the knockout blow for this season. But it only took one game for the SU women to prove to us that not only are they still fighting, but the best may be still to come.
So, what’s next for women’s lacrosse?
The regular season is over, and ‘Cuse has finished with a 12-2 (8-2) record. That finish puts the Orange in a tie for second behind undefeated UNC, but SU earns the No. 2 seed in the ACC tournament thanks to the goal differential tiebreaker that they won over Boston College.
The ACC Tournament will be played next Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday for the quarterfinal, semifinal, and final rounds, respectively.
So, the Orange’s first game will be Wednesday, April 28 against the No. 7 seed Virginia Tech Hokies, who SU beat in the regular season, 17-10, on March 27.
The Hokies earned the seven seed by picking up a very impressive 20-15 win over rival Virginia this weekend. It was VT’s first ACC win of the season, but proved that they are not to be taken lightly as they just scored 20 goals on a UVA team ranked No. 8 in the country.
Virginia Tech was a team significantly affected by COVID-19 pauses this season. They had a disjointed schedule and had a difficult time even practicing as a full squad for much of the season. Back in late March when they came to the Dome, the Hokies had only had about a half-dozen full team practices, and that was more than halfway through the regular season.
So, they’re a talented group that will be anything but a walk-over for ‘Cuse in the first round of the ACC Tournament.
That being said, I think with the BC split this weekend, the ladies are looking at a situation where they need to advance to the finals of the ACC Tournament to truly feel comfortable about earning a top-3 seed in the NCAAs.
They can still get one of those seeds without doing it, but you know UNC has one of them locked up, Northwestern is undefeated, and SU and BC are the other two in the mix. Northwestern has played a much weaker schedule, so even with an unblemished record, they might still fall all the way to the four seed. But I’d rather not rely on the committee to make that determination for us.
That means that a potential rubber match in the ACC semifinals between SU & BC would loom incredibly large in terms of deciding NCAA seeding. The teams still have identical records and resumes after this weekend, so you have to assume a tiebreaker next week would give that team the edge in seeding.
But before we get to that, Virginia Tech awaits on the horizon. It’s certainly a must win in the pursuit of top seeding, and it’s a talented team that has gotten more practice together under their belts than the first time these two teams met. Gary Gait and his group will need to be focused and ready for a rematch.
Be sure to tune into the ACC Network this Wednesday at 5 PM to root them on, and...
Let’s Go Orange!!!