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Syracuse women’s lacrosse: Defense the foundation as offense looks to reload in 2024

There’s lots to anticipate about this year’s team, and it all builds from the back.

2023 NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship Photo by Grant Halverson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

It feels weird to be entering into a Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse season with the idea that the offense might be the part of the team with the most questions to answer.

That’s nothing against the offense itself, which is surely going to display just about as much firepower as it always does despite the fact that it’s replacing three huge pieces, but rather a commentary on the overall strength of the rest of the roster.

On draws, defense and in net, this ‘Cuse team exudes a blend of talent, depth and experience that can essentially rival anybody in the country. It’s those parts of the team that will help form the solid foundation on which this season can build itself.

It starts in net with the backbone of a strong Orange zone defense, last year’s consensus First Team All-American goalie Delaney Sweitzer. Her outstanding play was the surprise of the season and was probably the most instrumental single element of SU’s 15-0 start. Like the rest of the team, she faded a bit down the stretch, but if she can reclaim her form from most of last year, this team can compete with anybody.

Delaney backstops a defense that is returning every single starter from last year’s team, plus a handful of key backups. Bianca Chevarie is coming back from her season-ending injury, and she’ll be returning along fellow starters Katie Goodale, Hallie Simkins, Superia Clark and Coco Vandiver. Junior veterans McKenzie Olsen and Julia Basciano are also back to provide some key depth for this defense, as are some other returning and new pieces.

The whole defensive band is back together, and it’s a very tantalizing prospect. There’s not going to be very much in the way of growing pains or chemistry with this unit. They know how to move and relate to one another in the zone, and their familiarity has a chance to be one of ‘Cuse’s greatest strengths this season.

On restarts, the Orange will be bolstered by the return of Kate Mashewske from her season-ending injury. Kate is arguably the best draw taker in the country when healthy, and her return ensures SU will be as dangerous as any team on draws this season.

Throw in the fact that Olivia Adamson was really starting to hit her stride as draw taker late last season, and add in a strong contingent of circle players to help run down loose balls, and you’re looking at a unit that has lots of depth and ability to help win as much possession as possible for this team.

And now we circle back to the offense, a unit moving on from the graduation of all-time program leading scorer Meaghan Tyrrell, eighth all-time leading scorer Meg Carney, and a great all-around midfielder in Sierra Cockerille. The three of them made up roughly 42 percent of last year’s goals and roughly 41 percent of last year’s points. There’s a huge loss incurred to this team in their overall production, experience and leadership.

As Kayla Treanor figures out what the future of her offense looks like, the good news is she’s got an excellent starting point with the returns of Emma Ward, Emma Tyrrell and Olivia Adamson. The trio will be stepping into even more centralized roles this year with the above departures, and will be the likely leaders of SU’s new-look offensive.

They’re joined by Maddy Baxter, Natalie Smith and Savannah Sweitzer to make up the returning core, and then the question turns to the new offensive weapons.

There are quite a number of options as far as players we’ll be seeing contribute for the first time this season, and they’re made up of a mixture of last year’s bench players and this year’s newcomers.

With returning players, it seems like the top candidates for increased playing time are Gracie Britton and Meghan Rode, a pair of sophomores who barely played (Britton) or didn’t play at all (Rode) last year.

And then with newcomers, we’ve got a trio of transfers we might see out there in Emma Muchnick (Maryland), Mackenzie Rich (UNC) and Claire Jeschke (Brown), as well as a bunch of freshmen led by Ashlee Volpe and Alexa Vogelman.

There’s a whole new group of options for this offense to play around with, including a handful I didn't mention, and at least one or two of them are going to need to be ready to step in and become the answer to the offseason questions.

If they can do that, there’s a good chance this offense will eventually exhibit its traditional high-octane flare and have this team once again competing for Memorial Day weekend.

In the meantime, it’s nice to know they have such a strong foundation returning to help ease the transition into a new era.