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Syracuse women’s lacrosse: A closer look at the offense’s recent struggles

Let’s examine the stats behind the recent malaise.

Boston College v Syracuse Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images

The struggles of the Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse team were certainly well documented as SU lost two of their last three games heading into May, looking nothing like the team that was unbeatable to that point.

One of the most notable changes in the team during that time was how the offense transformed from one of the nation’s most high-powered into one that was stuck in second gear.

It’s been almost two weeks since the team last played, and as we head towards the start of their NCAA Tournament journey, it’s time to take a closer look at those struggles and see what needs to change back if this team is going to go on the run we figured they would all season.

For all the statistics in this article, I’m going to be comparing the last 10 quarters (2.5 games), going back to the second half against Boston College, versus the first 15.5 games of the season when everything was going just swimmingly.

Let’s start with the offense as a whole:

Team Stats

Shooting Percentage

  • First 15.5 games: 52.4 percent (264-of-504)
  • Last 2.5 games: 35.0 percent (28-of-80)

Assists per game

  • First 15.5 games: 9.9 assists per game
  • Last 2.5 games: 5.2 assists per game

Goals per game

  • First 15.5 games: 17.03 goals per game
  • Last 2.5 games: 11.2 goals per game

We know from simply watching the last 2.5 games that the offense was struggling, but it’s still eye-popping to see the shockingly stark difference in these numbers.

The Orange were one of the highest-scoring offenses in the country all year long, in large part because they spent the majority of the season leading the nation in both shooting percentage and assists per game. They shared the ball efficiently and they shot the lights out when they got their looks.

That took a major hit during this recent swoon, as the team shooting percentage dove off a cliff from a nation-leading 52+ percent to the mid-30s. On top of that, the assists per game essentially got cut in half. As a result, the team churned out only about two-thirds the goal production they had been to that point.

Now, let’s take a look at the individuals. I’m looking at the team’s top eight scorers this season and using the same time frame as the team stats.

Individual Stats

Meaghan Tyrrell

  • First 15.5 games: 5.7 points per game
  • Last 2.5 games: 3.2 points per game

Emma Ward

  • First 15.5 games: 5.03 points per game, 3.2 assists per game
  • Last 2.5 games: 2.8 points per game, 0.8 assists per game

Emma Tyrrell

  • First 14.5 games (one game missed): 3.6 points per game
  • Last 2.5 games: 2.0 points per game

Meg Carney

  • First 14.5 games (one game missed): 3.7 points per game
  • Last 2.5 games: 1.2 points per game

Sierra Cockerille

  • First 15.5 games: 1.9 points per game
  • Last 2.5 games: 3.2 points per game

Olivia Adamson

  • First 15.5 games: 2.3 points per game
  • Last 2.5 games: 1.6 points per game

Maddy Baxter

  • First 15.5 games: 1.4 points per game
  • Last 2.5 games: 0.8 points per game

Natalie Smith

  • First 15.5 games: 1.2 points per game
  • Last 2.5 games: 1.2 points per game

Of the top eight scorers, six were down in production during this period, Natalie Smith broke even, and Sierra Cockerille was the only player whose scoring production was up.

But the big takeaway from the individual stats, for me, is how significant the drop-off is for the big four of Meaghan Tyrrell, Emma Ward, Emma Tyrrell and Meg Carney. The quartet entered the final 2.5 games averaging 18.03 points per game on the season. During this last stretch, their production was only at 9.2 points per game.

That is an absolutely insane reduction in scoring from your four most productive players. In fact, their scoring wasn’t just reduced; it was CUT IN HALF from 18 points to 9.

After the BC loss, Kayla Treanor talked in the post-game press conference about how the team’s offensive game plan against the Eagles involved attacking more from the midfield. That strategy did work (especially in the first half) against BC as Sierra Cockerille scored five points and Maddy Baxter had four goals, but there’s kind of an elephant in the room issue with this.

Sierra and Maddy are really good players who offer unique options for the offense to utilize. I would love to see Sierra invert and attack her defender from behind the cage a few times a game, especially because she’s normally defended by a midfielder whose likely not as comfortable defending down low like that. The same goes for doing a clear-out and letting Maddy’s elite dodging ability from up top take over. I think those things should definitely be incorporated at least a few times each game.

But the bottom line about this offense is that this team is going to go as far as the Meg’s and the Emma’s are able to carry them. This offense has one of the best supporting cast of characters in the country, but they are fueled by the firepower of their four leading ladies.

What has become Meg Carney’s goal scoring? What about Emma Ward’s assists? Where has the crisp, purposeful ball movement gone? And what in the world happened to everyone’s shooting efficiency?

It’s been very head-scratching to see the offense go haywire during this stretch, to say the least, but we obviously know the talent is there to re-find their footing in time for the NCAA Tournament.

I think the most important change may be figuring out exactly how they best want to attack and utilize all the weapons they have at their disposal. If they can get the strategy right, and remember how lethal they are when they share the ball properly, then they can turn this thing back around as quickly as they did in the last few games.