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Syracuse women’s lacrosse: Defense rules in 9-4 ACC quarterfinal win over Virginia Tech

Picking up a struggling offense, the defense had maybe its best game of the year to propel SU into the semifinals.

Stony Brook v Syracuse Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

Whoever originated the old saying, “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships”, might want to be advised: defense wins games, too.

That was the case on Wednesday evening down at Dorrance Field on the campus of North Carolina, where the No. 2 seed Syracuse Orange defeated the No. 7 seed Virginia Tech Hokies, 9-4, in a veritable slog-fest in the ACC quarterfinals.

Struggling all night to find any consistency on offense, the defense made sure to keep Virginia Tech at bay so that the Orange were never really challenged despite not even reaching double-figures themselves. It takes a special kind of defensive effort to accomplish that.

The defense stifled VT by stopping them at multiple levels.

  1. The first line of defense was the compact nature of the zone, making any form of penetration difficult for the Hokies’ dodgers.
  2. The second line of defense was the active stick-work put in by the defenders to make passing lanes difficult to find.
  3. The third line was the way the defense collapses on passes and cutters in the middle of their zone as soon as a pass actually is thrown in.
  4. The fourth and final line is goalie Asa Goldstock, who was there to stonewall VT shooters on the incredibly rare occasion when they actually got a clean look at goal. Goldstock had a second-straight strong effort, making five impressive saves for a 56 percent save percentage.

The Syracuse defense was just awesome in this game #analysis. Virginia Tech committed 24 turnovers in this game, 14 of which (WOW!) were caused by Orange defenders. They had six more turnovers than total shots (18), and were only able to put nine of those on cage. When you can’t even challenge the goalie with 10 shots on frame, you’ve got absolutely no chance. And again, the credit goes to the SU defense for WHY Virginia Tech was only able to put nine shots on goal (see above list).

Individually, the four Syracuse starting defenders all had multiple caused turnovers in this game. Ella Simkins (4), Allyson Trice (3), Kerry Defliese (2) and Sarah Cooper (2) were everywhere as they stick-checked and collapsed on defenders to cause loose balls all night long. Simkins added three ground balls and four draw control wins for a massive night’s work. Overall, the quarter combined for 11 CTs and 10 GBs, two fewer GBs than the entire Virginia Tech team.

The offense had a somewhat opposite day to the defense, sputtering for much of the night, never truly finding the right rhythm for any consistent production.

The team was led by Meaghan Tyrrell (2G, 2A) and Sierra Cockerille (1G, 3A), each of whom recorded four points for the game. Emma Tyrrell (2G), Sam Swart (2G) and Emma Ward (1G, 1A) all chipped in two points.

It was a poor shooting day all-around for the Orange, from shot selection to execution. The team came in shooting 50 percent on the season but only achieved 9-of-25 (36 percent) from the field. A big part of the shooting percentage was the play of VT goalie Angie Benson, who had a big game with 11 saves. She single-handedly kept the Hokies in the game for most of the night, but as well as she played, the Orange shooters still need to do a better job with their shot placement moving forward to make life harder for the opposing backstops.

The other major factor for the offensive issues was the turnovers. It wasn’t quite as rough a night as VT’s 24 turnovers, but ‘Cuse committed 14 of their own on a sloppy passing night. When you combine poor shot selection, a goalie making 11 saves, and 14 turnovers, you come out with a recipe for total lack of rhythm that ends with the Orange only putting up nine goals.

We know the offense is way better than what they showed on Wednesday night. In some ways it almost felt as a delayed-reaction to Megan Carney’s ACL injury. In their first game without Carney on Saturday, they put up an impressive 16 on BC. However, now that the adrenaline of that intense weekend wore off, they flailed their way to nine.

They will definitely need to clean up the turnovers and do a better job of finding the corners for the semifinals on Friday afternoon, or that will put even more pressure on the defense to be perfect against...oh, Boston College, what a nice change of pace!

So, yes, BC beat Virginia, 16-12, in the final quarterfinal of the night on Wednesday, and so we get the scenario we all figured would happen — a rubber match between the incredibly well-matched Orange and the Boston College Eagles.

This is a very weird and unique situation that these two teams find themselves in. Rubber matches are nothing new in the world of sports, but playing the same team three times in nine days definitely is outside of baseball. Normally, three games would be spread out over the course of months, but not in this COVID season.

Now, we get the pleasure of watching a fascinating third game between two teams that split the first two. BC scored a late goal to win a tight one on Thursday, and SU came back with a big, nine-goal win on Saturday.

What will these two teams and coaching staffs have in store for round three? What moves will be made in the chess match of adjustments between games?

I can’t wait to find out, so thanks goodness we don’t even have to wait 48 hours. SU and BC are set for semifinal action on Friday at 2:30 PM on ACC Network.

Tune in to check out an incredibly impactful game for the NCAA tournament seeding. The top three seeds in the NCAAs get a bye, and the winner of this game gets a huge upper hand in the race for those spots.

Do not miss out on all the fun, and...

Let’s Go Orange!!!