When you think about this year’s Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse team, you probably think of the defensive end of the field as the weaker side.
But this defense deserves to be thought of in better terms than that. This is a unit that was totally inexperienced last year, did a lot of growing throughout the season, and now comes into this year as a veteran unit capable of holding up their end of the bargain for this team.
Let’s take a closer look.
Projected starters (assuming health): Katie Goodale, Bianca Chevarie, Hallie Simkins, Superia Clark
Other candidates: Jordan Deblasio, Coco Vandiver, Chloe Bethea-Jones, Evan Johnston, Lauren Call
Let’s rewind one year.
The Syracuse defense had graduated everyone off their national runner-up defense except for one player, Sarah Cooper. The entire rest of the starting defense needed to be replaced, and in stepped three players who were playing significant college defensive minutes for the very first time.
On top of that, they also had to replace one of the best goalies in program history. Not exactly the kind of recipe defensive coordinator Caitlin Defliese wanted to see. It was a struggle at times, but ultimately they gained a lot of experience and showed themselves to overall be improving as the season progressed.
Back in the present, the situation is completely flipped from last year. Sarah Cooper is gone and must be replaced, but everyone else is back. And while replacing an All-American like Sarah is a tall task, the entire rest of the defense returns in tact, providing a sense of stability as the Orange search to replace Cooper.
Those three new players (Katie Goodale, Bianca Chevarie, Hallie Simkins) now have an entire year of starting on the same defense under their belt. That makes them veterans.
I don’t know how you guys feel about it, but I think the Orange are in a much better spot this year; having to replace one elite player but returning everyone else, as opposed to the opposite of that.
Katie Goodale — Junior, No. 12
In her first year as a starter, Katie was a breakout star. She finished the year named honorable mention All-American by Inside Lacrosse, and she repeated that honor late last week in preseason form.
More honors for the . Meet your @ILWomen Preseason All-Americans.— Syracuse Women's Lacrosse (@CuseWLAX) February 3, 2023
Meaghan Tyrrell - First Team
Emma Tyrrell - Second Team
Kate Mashewske - Third Team
Megan Carney - Honorable Mention
Katie Goodale - Honorable Mention
Details ➡️ https://t.co/rZzq0NX28i pic.twitter.com/YrYGcm8z1N
Katie was so good, I personally thought she had a better season last year than Sarah did. She led the team in caused turnovers with 28, and ranked fifth in the ACC in CTs per game (1.33).
She was also second on the team with 30 ground balls, and I lost count of the number of times she threw herself in the way of a ball carrier, drew a charge, and created a turnover for her team.
She should be this team’s No. 1 defender.
Bianca Chevarie — Senior, No. 45
Speaking of having a great first year, Bianca was exactly that in her first year moving from midfield to defense, where she knew the team had a much greater need.
While she had spent her first two years at SU as a backup midfielder, she was something of a revelation once she got more playing time as a starting defender. I often thought last year about how well she was doing using her athleticism to display strong cover skills and keep her offensive counterpart in front of her.
She was also very active on 50/50 balls, and ended up leading the team on the season with 31 GBs. She also finished third with 17 caused turnovers, and all that was with missing the first two games of the season due to injury. She and Katie make a really solid 1-2 punch for this defense.
Just like her former line-mate Maddy Baxter, Bianca spent part of her summer representing Team Canada at the World Championships, gaining some great experience playing with and against some of the best players in the world.
Hallie Simkins — Senior, No. 31
The third of our three players who were thrown into the starting lineup last year, Hallie didn’t put up the numbers that Katie and Bianca did, but she was still a solid presence in the middle for this defense and should only get better in year number two as a starter.
She played in every game last year, starting all but one, and finished the year with 11 ground balls and three caused turnovers.
Having these three back together for a second year is really the biggest selling point for this year’s defense, and that level of chemistry should not be ignored. The Orange might not possess the same individual defensive talent that UNC or BC have, but their togetherness should put them in a good spot, especially from the start of the season this time.
Superia Clark — Freshman, No. 30
Now we’ve reached the part of the defense where we need to talk about actually replacing Sarah Cooper. Who will be the fourth defender to join the three returners? It looks like the answer will come from the incoming crop of freshmen, of whom there are a few.
I’m going to start with Superia Clark, a two-time All-American out of Delaware who Inside Lacrosse had among their “watch list” portion of their Freshmen Power 100 rankings, which put her somewhere in the back half of the top 100.
From what I understand, Superia impressed in fall ball with her athleticism and speed, so it’s likely we see her out there making plays in some capacity this season.
Jordan Deblasio — Freshman, No. 4
A freshman out of the Mt. Sinai-to-Syracuse pipeline that’s being established in recent years, Jordan is our next candidate for defensive playing time.
She’s the second-highest rated freshman in this year’s class according to Inside Lacrosse, who ranked her No. 46 overall in this year’s incoming group. And she was one of two of this year’s freshman, along with Gracie Britton, to be named an Under Armour All-American and play in the AA game.
So, based on all that, you have to figure she’ll figure into the discussion, or at the very least provide solid depth for this end of the field.
Coco Vandiver — Freshman, No. 16
Let’s keep the freshman parade going with Coco, who comes to SU from McDonogh HS, the famed high school program in Maryland.
There, she was coached by one of the greatest players of all time in Taylor Cummings. How about going from being coached by Cummings to being coached by Kayla Treanor? That’s just absolutely crazy.
There is one more freshman defender in the mix in Chloe Bethea-Jones (No. 34), who comes to SU from a similar part of Delaware as fellow freshman defender Superia Clark.
Juniors Evan Johnston (No. 36) and Lauren Call (No. 77) round out the defense on the SU roster, both of whom played in some of the Orange’s blowout games last year.