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Syracuse women’s lacrosse: Specialists hold the key to success

The Orange will need the strong performances from last weekend to continue in tonight’s game

Jack Wallace

It’s not hard to figure out why the draw control taker and the goalie play an important role for any women’s lacrosse team.

The Syracuse Orange are no exception. We were reminded of as much on Sunday, when Kate Mashewske and Kimber Hower both played huge roles in helping SU advance past Princeton and into today’s quarterfinal matchup with Northwestern.

Kate dominated on draws, winning 13 herself and helping the Orange to a 17-8 advantage overall. Kimber made 11 saves while only surrendering nine goals, and was instrumental in keeping ‘Cuse in the game by making a handful of big-time stops early on when the team was struggling.

It’s been mixed-bag year for the specialties. Mashewske is in the midst of one of the best years in school history for a draw taker. Her 173 draw wins is currently third on SU’s all-time single-season list.

For the goalies, there hasn’t been nearly as much success or consistency. The first five games of the year were spent using the two-goalie system with Delaney Sweitzer in the first half and Hower in the second. Kimber became the starter in game number six and has held that role ever since, but it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.

Coming into the NCAA Tournament, goalie play was seen as a significant weakness for this Syracuse team, possibly to the point of being the reason why the Orange might not get to where they want to go this May.

After all, Hower was coming in off a regular season in which she posted a .356 save percentage and 11.94 goals-against average. Not exactly sparkling stats for a goalie.

But last weekend, she kicked it up a notch. She made 18 saves while only letting in 15 goals for a fantastic .545 save percentage and a 8.26 GAA in the two games.

The Orange need to hope that Hower is finding her rhythm at the perfect time with a strong Northwestern offense on the horizon, because it appears that her play has a strong correlation with SU’s results.

In the Orange’s 15 wins, Hower has recorded a save percentage of .442 and a GAA of 10.08. In their losses, she’s only saved .183 percent with a 16.26 GAA. That’s a 24 percent drop in save percentage from the respectable mid-40s to the putrid high teens.

Talk of the specialists is especially pertinent heading into this game because in the first matchup between the Orange and Wildcats, they did not go so well for the ‘Cuse.

Back in March, Northwestern handily won the draw control battle, 21-14. Northwestern draw taker Jill Girardi corralled 13 draws, while Mashewske only won one to herself. For the Orange, Emma Tyrrell tracked down eight of the 14 total wins. Emma, of course, will not be playing in this game. In other words, there is much to figure out at the draw circle for SU to be competitive in the all-important possession game.

The SU goalies, who were still doing the two-goalie system, saved only three while letting in 16 for a save percentage of .158. Ouch. Needless to say, a much larger percentage of saves needs to be made in this game for the Orange to find success.

While much of our focus will be centered on the stars of the SU offense and the defensive unit as a whole, there’s a good chance that the play of Mashewske on restarts and Hower between the pipes will be the catalysts that tilt this game one way or the other.

There is nothing like a draw win or a big save to take the pressure off the rest of the team as a whole and make everyone else’s jobs easier. Let’s hope we see a lot of both for the Orange today.