No. 9 Women’s lacrosse falls behind early against No. 2 Orange
Cavaliers fall against third ranked opponent in four games, 18-14
The No. 9 Virginia women’s lacrosse team hosted its first game of the season Sunday afternoon in Klöckner Stadium against No. 2 Syracuse. The contest marked the 16th meeting between the teams, and the first as conference rivals. Syracuse is Virginia’s third top-10 opponent in the past four games.
In an all-too-familiar situation, the Cavaliers (1-3, 0-1 ACC) fell just short to this ranked opponent, as Syracuse (4-0, 1-0 ACC) used its dynamic offensive attack to cruise to a 18-14 win. The Cavaliers, however, managed to hang-around with Syracuse for most of the game, allowing coach Julie Myers to take away a few positives from the loss.
“I think we have all the right players and the right toughness and grit,” Myers said. “We just are lacking being clutch in key moments. A goal here, better shooting on cage would have really helped. A couple more ground balls, a couple more clean transitions and I think we could have had a chance.”
Syracuse won the opening draw, but Virginia quickly gained possession and scored just 1:04 into the game on a goal by sophomore midfielder Mary Alati. Syracuse, however, responded with a barrage of four goals in less than two minutes to take a 4-1 lead.
Virginia answered with a 3-1 run on goals by junior attacker Casey Bocklet, senior attacker Ashlee Warner, and junior midfielder Courtney Swan to cut the Syracuse lead to 5-4 with 17:38 remaining in the first half. The Orange then went on a 5-1 run, extending their lead to 10-5 at with 12:14 remaining in the first half.
After more than six minutes of scoreless action, Swan added two more goals — notching her fourth hat-trick in as many games — to cut the Orange lead to 11-7 at the half. Many of Syracuse’s 11 goals came off of fast-break opportunities after draws, leading to easy scoring opportunities.
“When we won the draw, which we did a good job of, we were in good shape,” Myers said. “But when we didn’t win the draw, they went down and they scored a pretty easy goal. Clearly our defense coming off of a lost draw control needs to improve, but it’s kind of nice to have something exact we need to work on and things that we can train our players to do better with.”
Senior Virginia defender Maddy Keeshan scored just 19 seconds into the second half. After another Syracuse goal, Virginia went on a 4-2 run, adding three free-position goals in just more than a minute’s span by Alati, senior attacker Liza Blue and Swan to cut the Orange lead to 14-12 at 20:26.
Syracuse then railed off four consecutive goals, however, holding Virginia scoreless for nearly 15 minutes to seal the victory.
Keeshan and Swan led Virginia with three and four goals, respectively. Swan also contributed 10 of Virginia’s 19 draw controls in the game.
“Courtney does a great job, especially with that draw control,” Myers said. “She’s a really determined attacker that goes hard to goal.”
Syracuse averaged more than 21 goals per game coming into the contest. Two Syracuse players notched hat-tricks — sophomore attacker Kayla Treanor with five goals and junior attacker Devon Collins with four goals. Of Syracuse’s 18 goals, 12 were assisted. Myers said she expected to be challenged by this Syracuse unit.
“We knew they were going to be great,” Myers said. “Kayla Treanor is one of the best attackers in the country and [senior attacker] Alyssa Murray has got a nice one-two punch. But they’ve got other kids that really stepped in. They had some pretty good, easy, clean looks at the goal today. That’s probably the best attack we’ve played against so far, and it’s going to be one of the better ones in the country as well.”
Despite its recent losses, Virginia maintains hope for a complete game together in the near future.
“The close losses just say that we’re almost there,” Swan said. “Just a few more pieces need to fall into place. We have another full week of practice before we get to face Penn State on Saturday, so we’re just going to work on little things and come out and play a good game.”
Virginia will face off against No. 8 Penn State next Saturday at noon in the fourth installment of a five-game homestand. The Nittany Lions will mark the fourth top-10 opponent for Virginia in its last five games. Despite having such a strenuous schedule, the Cavaliers have embraced the competition.
“It’s crazy,” Swan said. “It’s a tough schedule, but that’s why we all came here. We have great players, and I’d rather play the best teams week-in and week-out than play a soft schedule.”