Coming off successful seasons for their defense and draw control units, there’s plenty of reasons for optimism in those areas for the Syracuse Orange once again heading into 2024.
Those reasons primarily revolve around the fact that both units return virtually all their key contributors from last season, who now return with another year of experience under their collective belts.
Let’s take a closer look on the eve of SU’s season opener on Saturday:
The 2023 Orange finished 24th in the country with a 55.5 draw control win percentage and tied for 15th in the country with 15.95 draw controls per game. All of that, of course, was done with star draw taker Kate Mashewske missing the majority of the season with a knee injury.
Well, Mashewske is back to lead the draw group, and was just recently named to the second team on Inside Lacrosse’s preseason All-American list.
More preseason honors for the ! Congrats to our @ILWomen preseason All-Americans. Read more at https://t.co/IEWOImRVmq.— Syracuse Women's Lacrosse (@CuseWLAX) February 7, 2024
Delaney Sweitzer - 1st Team
Kate Mashewske - 2nd Team
Emma Ward - 2nd Team
Katie Goodale - Honorable Mention
Emma Tyrrell - Honorable Mention pic.twitter.com/A00ytk70pi
In her absence, Olivia Adamson filled in admirably on draws, getting exponentially better as the season went on. My question is does Olivia continue to take some draws with Kate back from injury, or will Kate be back to solo taker? I’d love to see Adamson keep going to help ease Kate back in and give her extra rest during a long season, especially since she was doing so well by season’s end last year.
This team also has a strong group of circle players to help win draws in Katie Goodale, Emma Tyrrell, Maddy Baxter, Natalie Smith, and maybe some newcomers like Alexa Vogelman or others.
There should be lots to look forward to from this part of the field for this ‘Cuse team.
Last year’s Orange defense had one of their best seasons in recent memory. Their 9.57 goals against was the best scoring defense ‘Cuse has had since all the way back in 2016, Kayla Treanor’s senior season (not counting the shortened 2020 season). And the entire starting defense responsible for that number is back this year.
The defense was, of course, headlined by their net-minder in goalie Delaney Sweitzer, both last season and this preseason’s First Team All-American selection.
You just can’t overstate Delaney’s importance to this team in her breakout campaign last year. How many times did we see her make a huge doorstep save to bail out her defense or come up big on a free-position shot?
She stood tall and was one of the most important pieces in making last year’s team what it was. Like the rest of the squad, she faded down the stretch, but her importance and impact were undeniable and will be again in 2024.
ɪʀᴏɴ ꜱʜᴀʀᴘᴇɴꜱ ɪʀᴏɴ. pic.twitter.com/2Ayyu5k91s— Syracuse Women's Lacrosse (@CuseWLAX) February 5, 2024
She’s got her entire defense back, meaning the cohesion should be there from the start (although will be held up to the fire against Northwestern on Saturday). Katie Goodale and Hallie Simkins are back as senior leaders, and Coco Vandiver and Superia Clark return after fabulous freshmen campaigns. Goodale was also just named to the IL preseason All-American list as a honorable mention selection.
A massive key is the return of Bianca Chevarie from her season-ending knee injury, whose absence was felt in a huge way in the second half of the year. She brings an incredible combination of athleticism, quickness and intelligence to the position, and just had a knack for making big plays. She finished 2023 only five ground balls behind Katie Goodale for the most by a field player, and only 10 caused turnovers behind Goodale for most on the team, and she only played in 10 of the 21 games. She’s a difference maker out there.
McKenzie Olsen and Julia Basciano are back and played important reserve roles last year that became even more important after Chevarie’s injury. They’ll provide great depth, experience and ability for this group. Jenny Markey could as well, as she had switched to defense last year before her season-ending injury. Although, with everyone coming back, it’s possible Markey returns to her more offense-focus midfield role.
With all the returners, it’s tough to see newcomers making too much of an impact, but we can’t ignore the potential that freshman Kaci Benoit has to come in and play a role. Kaci was ranked No. 12 overall in the final “Power 100” rankings by IL, so depending on how she’s looked in practice, she certainly has the potential to cause a re-shuffling of things on defense.