Syracuse Defense Powers Bounce-Back Wins

Tuesday, Feb 18, 2020 at 3:56 pm by Sports Editor

By Jacob Morris

Citrus TV’s Women’s Lacrosse Beat Reporter

Heading into this weekend, the Syracuse Women’s Lacrosse Team was coming off their first loss of the season to Stony Brook. The defeat came in heartbreaking fashion, the Orange clawed their way back from a seven-goal deficit but fell just short in the final minute. In the loss, the Seawolves attack consistently sliced through the Syracuse defense, at one-point scoring seven consecutive goals.

This past weekend the Orange had two opportunities in two days to rebound from the loss. On Saturday, Syracuse (3-1, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) defeated Albany (0-1, 0-0 America East) 15-3. One day later, the Orange stifled Binghamton (0-2, 0-0 America East) 20-2 in a similar fashion.

The Syracuse defense was dominant in the two wins. The defensive unit held both Albany and Binghamton scoreless in the first half. Saturday’s win over Albany was the first time since a 2017 win over Northwestern that a Syracuse team had recorded a scoreless half. The next day, the ‘Cuse held Binghamton without a goal or a single shot in the first frame. After the Binghamton win, head coach Gary Gait was extremely complimentary of his defense.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the defense; I can’t remember ever a time looking up walking into halftime and seeing zero shots. My hats off to the D, that’s two great games in a row where they’ve stifled the other team’s offense,” said Gait.

Following the loss to Stony Brook, the Orange placed a point of emphasis on communication, and the defense showed immediate improvement as a result. The defensive unit consistently stayed in
front of Albany and Binghamton players and successfully passed attackers on to the next defender time and time again. The Great Danes and the Bearcats had a combined 37 turnovers
between the two games.

Defender Ella Simkins was impressed by the improvement, saying, “I think our communication has gotten a lot better. We’re a veteran based defense, so we’ve learned what our strengths are, and we’ve all embraced our positions.”

In addition to improving communication, Syracuse made considerable strides in cleaning up their play inside of the 12-meter fan. In the loss to Stony Brook, SU conceded nine free position opportunities, resulting in five Seawolf goals. All-American Ally Kennedy had a hattrick from free position situations alone, converting three out of four. In the two games against Albany and Stony Brook, Syracuse gave up just four total free position opportunities and allowed only a single goal.

The Orange will need to carry over every bit of their defensive momentum this coming weekend. The ‘Cuse travel to Evanston to take on No. 6 Northwestern (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten), the team responsible for knocking the Orange out of the NCAA tournament a season ago. This season, the Wildcats boast the nation’s best scoring offense, netting 24.25 goals a game. Syracuse Head Coach Gary Gait knows the game is going to be a fight.

“Northwestern [is] probably the best offense in the country. They’ve had some big numbers they’ve been putting up all year, and it’ll be a good matchup between our D and their O… It’s going to be a battle; it’s going to be tough.”

This past weekend’s two wins over Albany and Binghamton were vital for the Orange in terms of getting back on track with multiple ranked opponents looming, but they were also historically significant. The five goals given up by the SU defense over the two-game stretch were the fewest given up by the Orange in any two consecutive games since 2005. Who were Syracuse’s two opponents from 15 years ago? None other than Albany and Binghamton. | @jacobwm35