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March 24, 2010

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The Loch-Down: Near-Upsets Can Be Revealing

by Clare Lochary | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

The world of women’s lacrosse almost had its socks knocked off this weekend, when three top teams (Northwestern, Maryland and Penn) escaped with narrow wins. Instead, we sit here, still wearing our socks, wondering what it all means. This week’s Loch-Down will break down these non-upsets and explain just that.

NORTHWESTERN 13, SYRACUSE 12

Why the upset almost happened: I tore into the Orange in last week’s 10-2-W column, because its run-and-gun tendencies don’t do anything to disrupt Northwestern’s opportunistic style of play. But after digging itself a 5-1 hole early in the game, SU's defense (and defensive middies) came alive and started causing turnovers and built themselves a 10-7 halftime lead. Much credit goes to senior Christina Dove (4g, 1a), who scored a hat trick in just 3:33, and to junior Tee Ladouceur, who tossed up four assists and got a late equalizer goal on Dove’s assist.

Why it didn’t: Northwestern had 16 turnovers in the first half; its previous season high for an entire game was 14 TOs. The Wildcats tightened up in the second period, and that made the difference. Katrina Dowd got the game-winner with 1:28 to play, and the Wildcats controlled the final draw. Give credit where credit is due – Northwestern always finds a way to win.

What this means for Northwestern: The one strategic disadvantage that the ever-triumphant Wildcats have is that they rarely play down, or even close. (The last time they trailed at the break was last season when they were down 6-5 to Penn. They came back to win, 11-9.) This live-game experience, with three ties and four lead changes in the final eight minutes, will serve them well, should they get into a tricky spot later in the season. The Wildcats usually have one close game (or rarely, one loss) per season that puts the fear of God into them. This was probably it.

What this means for Syracuse: Quoth Gary Gait: “If we put our game together and play with confidence, we can beat anybody. I think that's what you take away from (this game) – we have the talent and we have the ability, and now we just have to work on the mental side of the game.”

Fun fact: This game was played at nearby Christian Brothers Academy, because the Carrier Dome was busy hosting the men’s basketball tournament. 1,583 fans turned out – and were rewarded with an excellent game – partially thanks to the large upstate New York contingent on Northwestern’s roster.

MARYLAND 7, BOSTON COLLEGE 6

Why the upset almost happened: Maybe it’s the bitter Big East alum in me, but half the time I forget that BC is now an ACC team. That’s terrible, I know, but in women’s lacrosse, the Eagles don’t give me much reason to remember them. I will remember them after this. BC did an excellent job executing the best strategy you can against a high-scoring team like Maryland: hold onto the ball, and take only high-percentage shots. Those six goals came on just nine shots. After Maryland got off to a 3-0 start, 20 minutes went by before BC’s Jill Rekert (1g) got on the board.

Why it didn’t: The Eagles’ rally started too late, and then Maryland’s Laura Merrifield (2g) caused a key turnover in the last minute and held on for dear life.

What this means for Maryland: They’re 8-0 and took down a previously undefeated ACC foe. They proved that they can play a chess match type of game, as well as a run-and-gun. Terps sophomore goalie Brittany Dipper is still something of a question mark for me – she had just two saves in a close game (albeit on quality shots) and an overall save percentage of .440.

What this means for Boston College: Even with the loss, they’re off to their best start in school history at 6-1. Their six wins (against unranked opponents) have all come by comfortable margins, too, so Virginia and North Carolina should beware the Eagles.

Fun fact: Boston College goalie Sheila Serafino (14 saves) gets to brag that she’s the only keeper in the country who held the Terps to single digits.

PENN 7, YALE 5

Why the upset almost happened: Penn supposedly wants to up its offensive output this season, but has struggled against quality defenses. The Quakers trailed 2-1 going into halftime, thanks to a lock-down defense anchored by Yale senior Michele Fiorentino.

Why it didn’t: The Bulldogs got into some turnover trouble, plus Penn’s defense is good enough that it’s not fatal if its offense takes time to start clicking.

What this means for Penn: They’ve got a clutch player in Guilia Giordano, who assisted on the go-ahead goal , gave the Quakers a key insurance goal with 3:03 on the clock and hit a post on another key second-half shot. When Giordano’s in the zone, she provides the workmanlike Quakers with a much-needed spark.

What this means for Yale: The Bulldogs need to create more on the offensive end if they want to win games. Even in a low-scoring game, you’re probably not going to win with just 11 shots. The Bulldogs’ defense is beast, though. After poor outings against Fairfield and James Madison, they’ve really clamped down. It’ll be interesting to see how they do against BU.

Fun fact: Yale actually leads this series, 18-14-1.

* Yale got its upset Wednesday, after this column was submitted. The Bulldogs upended No. 13 Boston University, 11-9.


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