It’s been two weeks since the Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse team last played, and we all remember how it went when we last saw them.
It became quite apparent by the way they played over the last two and a half games that Kayla Treanor and the Orange have a lot to get figured out or their journey in the NCAA Tournament is not going to be a long one.
But what, specifically, are some of the aspects of the game that need to change to get ‘Cuse back to looking like themselves again? Let’s go through a few ideas:
Emma Tyrrell on draws
I do realize that the draw control unit is pretty far down the list of concerns with this team right now, but I really can’t stress enough how important it is that Emma Tyrrell should be lining up on the circle for every, or close to every, draw this team takes the rest of the year.
I’ve said this so many times before, but it bears repeating: she is an absolute beast on draws. She hunts down the ball like nobody else, and uses her athleticism to come flying in off the circle (sometimes literally as she leaps to grab a ball mid-air) to gain extra possessions for the Orange. Plenty of times, I’ve seen her do exactly that one-handed. For all the things that Emma does well on a lacrosse field, proficiency on draws is one of the best and most important.
I’m pretty sure we’re at the point with last year’s knee injury that there’s no reason not to have her doing her thing on draws on every restart. Pairing her with Katie Goodale on the circle, combined with Olivia Adamson’s growth as the taker, makes for a formidable unit that can help SU to take control of games through more and more offensive possessions.
Emma Ward distributing from X
It’s tough to nail down exactly why the offense has struggled so much in the last 2.5 games, averaging only 11.2 goals per game during that stretch after putting up 17.03 per game before.
For whatever reason, they’ve gotten away from the things they do well when they have the ball, and that starts with their collective passing as a unit. All season long, they led the country in assists per game at just under 10 a content. But during the recent stretch, that number got cut in half to just over 5 per game. We watched the crisp passing turn into lazy ball movement and inefficient dodges that accomplished very little.
This offense is never better than when they’re moving the ball with purpose and finding each other off great off-ball movement. That onus falls on the offense as a whole, but nobody is a more incisive distributor than Emma Ward, especially when she’s picking out her teammates from the X position.
Emma had been averaging over 3 assists per game, but during the recent swoon, she was averaging less than 1. She’s in the conversation for best passer in the country, and this offense needs her, and everyone collectively, to act like it if they are going to get back to pushing 20 on the scoreboard.
Putting in the work pic.twitter.com/K5m2cuwzEl— Syracuse Women's Lacrosse (@CuseWLAX) May 8, 2023
Meg Carney scoring goals
I just don’t know what’s happened to Meg Carney’s ability to find the back of the net recently; and this issue actually pre-dates the most recent struggles. Meg got off to an incredibly hot start this season, but she’s been middling with her goal-scoring for over a month now.
In the first 10 games of the season, Meg scored 4 goals or more in 8 of the 10 games. She scored 40 goals during that stretch and was averaging exactly 4.0 goals per game. In the seven games she’s played in since (she missed one due to injury), she’s only scored 4 goals in a game once and has a total of 12 goals for an average of 1.7 goals per game. Her goal scoring has been more than cut in half during those seven games.
I don’t know if this is in any way related to the injury that caused her to miss the Cornell game, but whatever the reason is, this team desperately needs Meg to get back to being the sniper she was earlier in the season. There are certainly plenty of people on this team who can find the back of the net, but nobody is better at it than Meg is when she’s on. And this team needs that version of her if they’re going to make waves in May.
At times, it feels like this high-powered offense gets a little unsure of what they want to run and how they want to attack a defense. They have so many options at their disposal, and one that Kayla has been reticent to use during her tenure is the weave that they used to run so frequently and effectively under Gary Gait.
If they find themselves in a funk at any point this tournament, it seems like a good way to break out of that would be the weave. What’s so good about it is it gets both the ball and the players moving consistently and gives them an easy opportunity to find a rhythm through that movement. It’s very difficult for a defense to track, and all these players know it well from running it in their younger days under Gait.
I certainly don’t expect to see too much of it, because they just haven’t used it very much under Kayla, but I do hope she’s keeping it in her back pocket for a key moment.
Other plays offensively that I’d love to see more of include:
- isolating Meaghan Tyrrell and allowing her to either dodge to shoot or dodge to pass, depending on whether or not the defense brings a double team
- inverting Sierra Cockerille and having her dodge from X against her defender, likely a midfielder who’s not comfortable defending around the crease
- isolating for Maddy Baxter up top and allowing her to dodge down the right alley and shoot on the run for a goal like we’ve seen her do so many times this season. She’s an elite dodger from up top, and defenses are always late to slide to her because of her speed and the reluctance to slide off the other great offensive players
Great time of year to be playing lacrosse in the 'Cuse. pic.twitter.com/VtnuCCI2GX— Syracuse Women's Lacrosse (@CuseWLAX) May 10, 2023
Alright, let’s close with the defensive end of the field.
There’s no question the defense needs to do a better job at picking up cutters and closing off passing lanes through the middle of the zone to create turnovers and stop wide-open close range shots from happening so frequently. They also need to do their best to limit the whistles against them that lead directly to free positions.
Ultimately, though, this defense, and perhaps this entire team, will live and die on the back of Delaney Sweitzer in net. All season long, Delaney looked like the best goalie in the country. But in the last 2.5 games, that came crashing down as she allowed 38 goals while only stopping 17 shots for a save percentage of .309 percent.
Those numbers are very reminiscent of last year for Delaney, and they’re nowhere near where they need to be for this team to make a deep run into May.
In the last couple games, especially against North Carolina, she looked a step slow in her reactions and, at times, looked like she just wasn’t seeing and reading the ball off the stick well at all. I don't know why that started happening seemingly out of nowhere, but I do know that if she doesn’t start looking like 2023 Delaney again, then this team is in trouble.
What else do we have in the way of changes as the Orange look to right the ship?