Nike/LM NCAA Preview: No. 3 Syracuse (Women)
Syracuse dropped eight games last year, but it was still a stellar season for the Orange. Playing the nation's toughest schedule prepped them for a strong finish that included an ACC title and another final four run.
The Orange feature one of the nation's most dynamic players in senior Kayla Treanor and will benefit from the experience that Halle Majorana gained in a breakout season.
Syracuse at a Glance
2015 Record: 16-8
3 Big Things
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Gait believes strongly that improving the Orange strength of schedule has helped them return to the final four year after year. His best case was last year when Syracuse struggled in the regular season, but won the ACC tournament and reached the national semifinals. This year’s schedule is loaded again beginning with unique back-to-back doubleheaders.
1. Syracuse is starting in a better place.
With so much experience back, Syracuse will hit the ground running. “Last year we had a lot of growing pains trying to come up with our lineup,” Gait said. “We played 23-24 players against the top five teams in the country. It wasn’t until the end of the year that we narrowed down our true starters and got them more focused time. We’re going to see the benefits of that this year going into this season when we have an idea who our go-to players are. We’re good to go from the start.” That means more time to spend developing and improving in their roles.
2. The midfield and defense deserve some love.
So much attention is paid to the attack that often the Orange midfield and defense go unnoticed. Led by Taylor Gait and Erica Bodt, the midfield has experience and talent. Gabby Jaquith started 13 games and freshman Emily Resnick will make an immediate impact. “You’re going to see some of the best middies in the country are on our team,” Gait said. “And they’re going to step up.” Gait believes he can put together two almost equally good midfield lines, and there’s a glut of depth on defense. Four starters are back plus once-projected starter Ella Hogan returns from injury, and standout freshman Alexa Radziewicz is in the mix.
3. The Orange think they can get over the hump.
There is tons of talent and experience back from a team that advanced all the way to the semifinals. “We were pretty close last year,” Gait said. “We have to step it up as an entire team. We were a couple goals away from Maryland at the top of the country.” Syracuse has been tantalizingly close before. They went to two NCAA finals in the last four years, and that chase continues to motivate them. “They’re hungry to get it done,” Gait said. “We have some great senior leadership this year. They put the work in. They’re more focused than they’ve ever been on trying to reach that goal. They’re doing little things behind the scenes to reach that goal.”
* returning starters
A two-time Tewaaraton finalist, Treanor is already one the most accomplished players in Orange history. Last year’s IWLCA Attacker of the Year has 300 career points, of which 91 came last year after a slow start marked by injuries and faceguards. “She can get better,” Gait said. “She can have a more consistent season. She can put up better numbers and improve on what she’s done.”
The daughter of a high school coach, Levy brings All-American credentials from East Islip (N.Y.), where she scored 101 goals in her senior season. “She has a great outside shot, very good awareness, good timing and understands the game,” Gait said. “She’s a very good shooter and finisher. She doesn’t miss many shots.”
Gait is part of a midfield that is often overlooked because of the potent attack. She missed four seasons due to knee injuries, but returned last year to be the Orange’s fifth-leading scorer overall (27g, 2a) and top scorer in the midfield. “She’s been healthy coming up on two years, and she started to pull it together at the end of last year,” Gait said. “She’s building on that confidence.”
Biggest Question Mark
Murray only played significantly her junior year at Notre Dame, then graduated early and did not play last year. She’s a graduate student and one of three goalies on the Orange roster. “After the fall, I felt pretty good,” Gait said. “We’re in a good situation. I’m pretty comfortable with our lineup top to bottom.”
Halle Majorana had a breakout season for the Orange last year. She had 55 goals, led the team with 36 assists and tied with Kayla Treanor for the team lead with 91 points. (John Strohsacker)
What rival coaches say about the Orange
"So much offensive talent returns, could finally make that jump. Kayla Treanor is arguably the best player in the country. The loss of Kailah Kempney on the draw, generating offense when Treanor is faceguarded and double teamed, will hurt them."
"Kayla Treanor. Not only Kayla, but now she’s got Majorana with a whole year under her belt and Taylor Gait injury free. That’s a problem for everybody - that frees up Kayla and allows Halle to do what she needs to do. You’ve got to try to limit those three, and that doesn’t even speak to any of the midfielders they’ve got. They are absolutely going to be making a massive run towards a national title. They’re deep and athletic and they play their game. I would be shocked if they don’t play a backer-style defense. That 3-second rule is going to be advantageous for them in their scheme."
"Kempney is a huge loss, but I think they’re the team to beat in the ACC. They’re hungry and Treanor does amazing things."
"I think they are going to be great. They return quite a few of their key impact players from last year. They really found their momentum toward the end of the season. Obviously their top player is Kayla Treanor. She poses such a problem for other people in terms of matchup and being multiple really well. They’ve always got some good freshmen that will impact every year. That’s one of Gary’s strengths, and I think they will be battle-tested by a very strong schedule."
Number of consecutive Final Four appearances by the Orange. Syracuse became just the fifth team since the NCAA tournament’s expansion in 1997 to accomplish the feat. They finished second twice and lost in the semifinals twice.
19 @ Boston College
March 12 Maryland
A rematch of last year’s NCAA semifinal. Maryland has topped Syracuse to end each of the Orange’s last two seasons. This game gives the Orange a chance to make a statement to the defending national champion early in the season.
Kailah Kempney graduated in fourth all-time for draw controls in NCAA history. Last year, she had a school-record 186. The Orange will replace her with a committee of Treanor, Donahue, Bodt and Devon Parker. “We’re in good position to replace her,” Gait said. “That puts us right back to where we need to be.”
Syracuse has been knocking on the door for years, and with Treanor leading a more experienced team, this could be the season the Orange finally win their first NCAA championship.
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