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Syracuse women’s lacrosse: Orange show fourth quarter fight in 9-7 comeback win over No. 9 Loyola

The Orange made program history against the Greyhounds thanks to a gutsy fourth quarter.

2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship Photo by Greg Fiume/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse team has spent the majority of the 2023 season proving their greatness by dominating almost every opponent they’ve come up against.

On Wednesday night down in Baltimore, they proved their greatness by reminding us they can also win tight, grind-it-out style games that require big plays to be made in big moments.

In a difficult road environment against a top-10 team, the Orange did exactly that to take down the No. 9 Loyola Greyhounds, 9-7, and improve to 8-0 for the best start to a season in program history.

After building a 6-3 halftime lead on the back of strong defense and free-position goals, the Orange came out with a complete dud of a third quarter. They somehow looked to be lacking energy even though they were locked in a tight battle with the No. 9 ranked team in the country.

In the third quarter, the Orange won no draw controls, scored no goals, had no shots on goal, and were outscored 4-0 by Loyola as the Greyhounds carried a 7-6 lead into the final frame. That’s as bad as it gets, and it was starting to look like the first loss of the season was right around the corner.

But then the fourth quarter happened, and in the blink of an eye the entire course of the second half changed. ‘Cuse’s defense was literally perfect in the fourth. They had six defensive possessions in the quarter, and the results of those possessions were three Loyola turnovers and three Delaney Sweitzer saves. Zero goals given up.

Meanwhile, the offense leaned on their leaders. Sierra Cockerille, Meaghan Tyrrell, and Meg Carney each scored a goal in the fourth to retake the lead and keep it for good. That’s three goals from three graduate students who came back for one final year of college lacrosse. And on a difficult offensive night, the leaders of this offense and this team did what needed to be done in the biggest moments of the game, when the result was hanging in the balance.

There is an undeniable truth about every sports team that’s ever existed, no matter how great they are: not every day or every game is going to be your best. Sometimes, you just don’t have it like you normally do. For SU, Wednesday against Loyola was one of those days.

It’s only the best of teams that can continue to win in the face of that undeniable truth, and in this game SU reminded us that they possess that quality as a team in addition to all their other amazing qualities.

One aspect of the team that most certainly did not experience an off day was the defense, which put in another spectacular effort in holding a highly talented Loyola offense to seven goals, the fifth game in a row they’ve held the opponent to single-digits.

Once again, the zone was fantastic at collapsing on players the instant they received a pass in a potentially dangerous area. I lost count of the amount of times a Loyola player caught a pass and thought they were about to make a play, only to be chased back outside the zone by a pair of swarming Orange defenders. It was never better than in the fourth quarter, when they put on a masterclass in completely stopping a good offense in its tracks.

They caused 11 turnovers, the fourth time in the last five games the defense has caused double-digit turnovers. Everyone on the defense had a strong game, but Bianca Chevarie (2GB, 3CT) and Coco Vandiver (1GB, 3CT) led the way with three CTs each. Hallie Simkins (2CT) and Katie Goodale (1CT) also got in on the turnover party.

Delaney Sweitzer was fantastic, coming up with three gigantic saves in the fourth quarter when the game was either tied or SU had a one-goal lead to help the Orange to victory. Without all three of those saves, this game might have turned out differently. She finished with eight saves, a .533 save percentage, and six GBs for the third straight game.

The offense had their most difficult day of the season, by far. The nine goals they scored in this game was six shy of their previous season-low for goals of 15 against Notre Dame. All night long, ‘Cuse dodgers were unable to beat their markers, and the ball and player movement was not up to the usual standards for this team.

As a result, we saw a different kind of offensive production in this game. A Syracuse team that led the nation in points and assists per game coming into the night finished significantly below their averages in both. The Orange only finished the game with one assist, which came on the final goal of the game. It was a win-your-individual-matchup kind of night, which ‘Cuse did just enough of to secure the win.

Meaghan Tyrrell (2G), who scored the game-winning goal, Meg Carney (2G), and Emma Ward (1G, 1A) tied for the team lead in points with two each. Sierra Cockerille, Emma Tyrrell, Olivia Adamson, and Natalie Smith each scored one goal to quickly round out the Orange scoring for the night.

Another issue in this game was the draw control unit, playing in their first game without Kate Mashewske. It did not go well for Olivia Adamson and company, who only managed to bring in 5-of-19 draws. It was especially bad in the second half, when the Orange only won one of nine draws.

To be fair to Adamson and the whole unit, this was her first collegiate game taking draws after only having three days to practice. On top of that, they were going up against the team leading the country in draw control win percentage, so it was kind of a perfect storm. There will surely be better days ahead for the draw unit, although they meet 6’2” Maddie Jenner over the weekend, the NCAA all-time leading draw taker.

The Orange will be back in action this weekend when their road trip continues down in Durham for a Saturday, March 18 meeting with the No. 15 Duke Blue Devils. The game is scheduled for 12 PM on ACC Network Extra.