Syracuse is Peaking Ahead of Biggest Test in North Carolina
By: Ian Nicholas | @IanNicholas25
CitrusTV Women’s Lacrosse Beat Reporter
No. 4 Syracuse Women’s Lacrosse (10-2, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) completes a four game homestand against No. 1 North Carolina (12-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) on Saturday, April 9. The Orange have a chance to avenge their loss to the Tar Heels in last year’s ACC Championship, when UNC shut down SU 9-4. 2022’s rematch has more than redemption on the line, though. Syracuse has already dropped a pair of games, but is still unbeaten in conference play. Only the Orange and Tar Heels have perfect ACC records with under three weeks left in the regular season.
Five games remain before the conference tournament and SU’s in great shape. The ‘Cuse have won four in a row, are 3-1 against teams ranked 10th or higher, and haven’t lost inside the Dome (7-0). All that’s missing from Syracuse’s championship-caliber resume is a win over one of North Carolina or Boston College; the undisputed top-2 teams in the nation. Coach Kayla Treanor has the chance to battle both juggernauts before seasons end, and Syracuse’s head woman looks forward to the first leg of that challenge later this week.
“Not just the fact that we’re playing (North) Carolina, but we don’t have a midweek game,” said Treanor after Saturday’s 18-6 win over Pittsburgh. “We get a week to really get better as a team in this late stretch in the season…I think the opportunity to play (North) Carolina at home, it’s part of the reason these girls pick to come to Syracuse. You know you get to play all the top teams in the country.”
Hall of Fame coach Jenny Levy and her Tar Heels also have a full week to prepare for the Orange. UNC took care of business vs. No. 15 Notre Dame on Saturday, 15-7. North Carolina’s All-Americans came to play, as attacker Jamie Ortega tallied six goals while goalie Taylor Moreno saved 16 shots. SU’s also coming off a strong weekend performance against a conference opponent in Pitt. Yes, the Panthers are in their inaugural season and are now 0-6 in the ACC. But Pittsburgh not only had a 4-2 lead after the first quarter on Saturday, but also led No. 2 Boston College by four 10 minutes into their game last week.
However, the Orange would dominate the final three quarters as they went on a 16-2 run. Senior Meaghan Tyrrell scored eight points and also tied her season-high with six goals. The attacker has 28 points over SU’s four-game win streak. Graduate student Emily Hawryschuk kept a stagnant offense afloat in the first half, when she notched four of her six points. In the process, the Inside Lacrosse Midseason All-American became just the fifth player in program history to record 300 points. Goalie Kimber Hower (Moreno’s former backup at UNC) continued to improve in cage, stuffing more shots (7) than she allowed (6). The redshirt junior has a .464 save % since being benched midway through the Florida loss last month.
Speaking of which, since Syracuse was stunned by UF, the Orange have executed in the most important phases of the game. Treanor’s team is averaging almost 18 goals, allowing under eight scores, and winning nearly 62 percent of draws per contest since March 16. The question with this year’s SU squad never had anything to do with its starpower, as Inside Lacrosse recently named six members of The ‘Cuse to its Midseason All-America team. Doubts about Syracuse’s ability to replace netminder Asa Goldstock and defender Ella Simkins in the draw circle have begun to fade away as the Orange have hit their stride.
Regardless of recent success, North Carolina’s a different beast. Syracuse has lost six straight against UNC dating back to 2017’s ACC Tournament. The Tar Heels are led by eight IL Midseason All-Americans, including three first-team selections in Ortega, midfielder Ally Mastroianni, and defender Emma Trenchard. So what’s the X-factor for The ‘Cuse? Well, I’d say there’s two of them. First: Hower needs to hold up against her former team to record at least a .400 save %. If the passionate goaltender and her defense can provide some resistance, SU’s offense can keep this game close. Second: Megan Carney has to be available to return from a lower-leg injury which has cost the senior the last two games. While the trio of Hawryschuk and the Tyrrell sisters can do plenty on their own, the entire attack unit is at its best with Carney quarterbacking from X.
This game will determine if the Orange have what it takes to return to Championship Weekend. With a win or a close defeat, Syracuse can continue to dream of a national title in late May. But if North Carolina comes into the 315 and runs all over SU, then trouble awaits The ‘Cuse in a few weeks’ time.