February 5, 2014


#LMRanks: No. 3 Syracuse Orange (WD1)

by Jonah L. Rosenblum | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Alyssa Murray leads a senior class hungry to finally take a title home after knocking on the door in recent seasons. (Greg Wall)

Previous: No. 4 Northwestern Wildcats

Vitals

2013 Record: 18-4 (8-0 Big East)
Coach: Gary Gait (7th year)
Record at Syracuse: 94-31

Power Ratings

Offense: 5
Defense: 3
Goalkeeping: 4
Draw Control: 4

Top Returner

A Kayla Treanor (So.)
Treanor showcased her tremendous potential during her freshman campaign, when she took her place among the nation's best lacrosse players with 71 goals and 24 assists. This year, Treanor may be more marked, but at the same time, opponents will be unable to devote too much energy to Treanor with Alyssa Murray and Taylor Poplawski at her side. The first freshman in school history to make the IWLCA All-American First Team, Treanor didn't slink from the big game, scoring two goals apiece against a slew of talented opponents in Northwestern, Maryland and Notre Dame.

X-Factor

A Alyssa Murray (Sr.)
The senior attacker "has her heart set" on a national championship this season, according to coach Gary Gait. After leading the nation in scoring in 2012 and ranking as a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award last season, there's not much else left for Murray to accomplish. Still, she remains hungry.

"I don't think there's anybody in the country that wants it more than she does," Gait said. "That's what's amazing about Alyssa. She has that killer instinct. She wants to win every second of every practice and every game."

Tournament Trend

2009 - Quarterfinals
2010 - Final Four
2011 - Did Not Qualify
2012 - NCAA Final
2013 - Final Four

What's New?

Taylor Poplawski generated a lot of excitement in upstate New York with her performance in the Under Armour All-America Classic, notching four goals and an assist for the North. Fellow freshman Kelsey Yournell also took part in the contest after a 72-point campaign for Jordan-Elbridge High School.

Telling Number

.739
From their very first home game against MAAC Tournament champion Canisius, the Orange play eight of their nine home games against teams that finished 2013 with a winning record.

ENEMY LINES

Opposing Coaches on the Orange

"Big, fast, and athletic, and they have the confidence to match. Gary Gait could probably win a lot of games with just his bench players. They've been so close the past few years. Maybe it's their turn?"

"Kayla Traenor – one word."

"Lose Tumolo and Block but return core of Final Four Orange squad. ACC bound in 2014, look for Cuse to surprise a few conference foes."

"Big, fast, and athletic, and they have the confidence to match. Gary Gait could probably win a lot of games with just his bench players. They've been so close the past few years. Maybe it's their turn?"

"Cuse has been almost there for the past couple years now and is ready to attack. They said goodbye to great leaders on and off of the field but the underclassmen brought in by Gait are sure to make an even bigger impact this season."

"Syracuse should make it to the NCAA championship this year. They had unfinished business last year and injuries affected them."

"Creative, talented, offensively explosive. Some of the best attackers in the game. "

"Murray and crew should carry this team well into May."

"Lost a ton to graduation but has a strong nucleus back."

"They have the weapons, depth, and coaching to go undefeated this season. Treanor and Murray are definitely early favorites for the Tewaaraton."

"Speed, with a mindset of winning."

"Always the bridesmaid. Maybe it's time to finally be the bride."

"Should be a top team this coming season Interested to see how their defense shapes up without the Blocks. The offense should be creative and fun as usual."

"I look at Syracuse and they're just so strong all over the field. Of all the teams at the Final Four last year, I think they graduated the least."

"Gary's done a tremendous job in his time at Syracuse. Their team is going to be extremely dangerous. They return Kayla Treanor and Alyssa Murray, two of the best offensive players in the country. They're a serious concern for whoever they're playing. They have the ability to control the draw and on the defensive end, they'll pressure you. They're a team to really watch out for this season."

2013 Recap

In a Nutshell: The Orange's 2013 campaign began innocently enough, with three losses in their first eight games, though those three losses came to No. 4 Maryland, No. 2 Florida and No. 4 Northwestern. Syracuse took advantage of a somewhat softer Big East slate to launch a 13-game winning streak that took it all the way to the Final Four. It will not have that luxury this season in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

High Point: The Big East champion Syracuse Orange advanced to their fourth Final Four in program history with an impressive second half against No. 4 Florida at the Carrier Dome. Alyssa Murray, Kaliah Kempney, Katie Webster, Kayla Treanor and Devon Collins combined to score 11 of Syracuse's 13 goals and take 26 of its 29 shots.

Low Point: After letting an early 4-1 advantage against the Wildcats slip, Syracuse retook the lead and had a chance at a stunning upset of Northwestern at Lakeside Field. The Orange led 10-8 and had all the momentum with 18:35 remaining following two goals by Alyssa Murray in a 35-second span. Syracuse also took single-goal leads with 12:14 and 11:37 remaining, but couldn't hold on, dropping an 11th straight game to Northwestern. Winless against the Wildcats since 2003, the Orange found themselves holding a measly 5-3 record.

2013 Preview

Best Case: Taylor Poplawski mimics Kayla Treanor with a tremendous freshman season. Alyssa Murray is the final piece of a three-headed monster, as she wins her first Tewaaraton Award and Syracuse wins its first title. The goalie combination of Kelsey Richardson and Alyssa Costantino that coach Gary Gait felt clicked in the 2013 postseason continues to defy conventional logic and holds steady in the absence of the Block twins.

Worst Case: Syracuse really misses the Block sisters on the draw and on the defensive end. Peppered with shots, neither Kelsey Richardson nor Alyssa Costantino is able to emerge as a marquee keeper. Kayla Treanor endures a sophomore slump and an unbelievably difficult schedule sends the Orange limping into the postseason.

Self-Examination— Gary Gait on...

Kayla Treanor: "She's going to improve and become a more dynamic player. She has the potential to do some pretty amazing things on the field. We're looking forward to that."

Taylor Poplawski: "She's very athletic, a great player, she's going to be an incredible player. We're just waiting for her to develop. She's probably in a bit of a unique situation where she's got some superstars ahead of her so that will give her a year to kind of find a way to fit in and be more of a role player than have to step in right away and be an immediate go-to person. I'm expecting big things out of her."

Alyssa Costantino and Kelsey Richardson: "I know our goalies don't get much credit, but the combination during the playoff run last year, they had probably the top save percentage combined in the playoff run. They played amazing together. The year before, they did it all year long. They had a rough start to the beginning of last year as they transitioned into the zone defense. It totally changed the type of shots they saw and it took a while for them to adjust to them. I think they've come a long way."

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at#LMRanks.


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