Picture this: It's a Monday afternoon in early February of 2020 and the Syracuse Women's Lacrosse team is starting their warmups at the Dome. In one hour, at approximately 5p.m., they will take on their second opponent of the season: 12th ranked Stony Brook Women's Lacrosse.
Here's some more context. The Syracuse Women's Lacrosse team was coming off of a 21-6 win against Canisius, they were, at that time, ranked 4th in the country. On top of that, nearly every person on their starting lineup, from goalie to attack, was a returning starter. All of this to say: Syracuse had the advantage, and they were slated to win that game from the second it appeared on the schedule.
But that's not what happened. At the end of the first half, the teams were tied. Surprising? Maybe a little but surely a halftime pep talk talk from Coach Gait would set the Orange straight and propel their team forward. Wrong again.
The Orange and the Seawolves traded goals to start the second half for a score of 9-9 with 24:29 to go. Shortly after, Ally Kennedy broke the tie and the Seawolves took the lead. This is where things really got weird.
It was at this time that Stony Brook, who was 1-0 at the time, went on a 7-0 scoring run to give the Seawolves a 16-9 advantage with only a little over 10 minutes left in the second half. We need to talk about this. Syracuse was at home. They were ranked higher than the Seawolves. What happened? This is what it comes down to: lacrosse is a game of runs. This means that it is just as easy for good to turn into great, as it is for bad to turn into worse. In this instance, the luck was not on Syracuse's side.
What's even stranger, though, is that afterwards, Syracuse went on a run of their own. San Swart and Emily Hawryschuk came to the rescue scoring goals both individually and with each other's help. With 1:08 to go, Syracuse had cut the deficit to 1, the score 17-16. But they couldn't tie it up, and just like that, the Seawolves stripped Syracuse's chance of having an undefeated regular season. That loss would end up being the only loss of the season for Syracuse.
In the interview afterwards, Coach Gait said (according to an article from Cuse.com), "We got off to a pretty good start and then had a real letdown in the middle of the game and didn't stick to our game plan. Unfortunately, we let them outwork us in the middle and take advantage of that and get up on us. I give our team a lot credit for fighting back and not giving up. They dug down and got it to within one. Unfortunately we didn't get the last draw control and we came up a little short."
This, ladies and gentlemen, is why tomorrow is such an important game. Syracuse has a chance to prove themselves against the one team that showed out against them last season.
If you've been reading my articles for long enough, you know that I'd prefer to talk about the more unusual factors that play into a game, which we will get to in a minute. But for purposes of being factual, here are the important things to know about Stony Brook heading into tomorrow's matchup:
1) They have one of the best, if not the best, players in the country on their starting midfield in Ally Kennedy. You may remember from one of my last articles that Inside Lacrosse came out with a list of the 2021 Top 50 Players in College Lacrosse. Remember how Emily Hawryschuk was 2nd? Well, Ally Kennedy is third. On top of that, she was named the US Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Player of the Year. So it's safe to say that the competition in the midfield, and on the draw circle tomorrow, will be absolutely out of control.
2) Stony Brook and Syracuse Both have a Blue Collar Mentality. What do I mean by this? It's easy to talk, it's harder to do. It's easy to tell, it's harder to show. Stony Brook and Syracuse are, and always have been, similar in this way: they let their talent speak for itself, and they don't ever, ever give up. We saw that with our own eyes from both teams last year, as they both went on major runs without ever taking their foot off of the gas. Bottom line: tomorrow is going to be a cold, hard, fight.
3) Stony Brook Women's Lacrosse is already 2-1, with their only loss being to North Carolina which, let's face it, is currently the best team in the country until someone disproves that statement. The final score of Stony Brook against UNC was 14-7 which, for their first game of the season, is pretty impressive despite taking the L. The Seawolves gave out tough losses to both Boston University (20-10) and #15 USC (15-3), making tomorrow their fourth game. They have competed two more times than the Orange heading into tomorrow's matchup, which could play a factor in the outcome.
4) Stony Brook is not totally set on their goalie. They have been starting Kameron Halsall, who, to her credit, has made some big saves against tough opponents. That being said, the backup goalie, Hayley Hunt, has also gotten significant time in two of the three games, which signifies to me that SB doesn't feel 100% confident in the goalie play they have seen so far this season. Against Syracuse shooters who are absolute snipers and will rip it from anywhere on the field, this is an X factor for Stony Brook.
Now, just a couple more unusual factors to keep in mind:
1) For some reason, the game tomorrow is in the Dome again after having been in the Dome last year as well. Normally, teams flip flop locations on a yearly basis, but for some reason unbeknownst to me (fill me in if you have the answer to this), Syracuse will have the home advantage for the second year in a row. Huge deal? No, especially since there are no fans allowed inside. But is does make some kind of a difference. It is always better to be at your home field. This is especially the case for Syracuse since they play and practice in a dome that has regulated temperature (aka, they aren't used to playing in cold weather). Projected temperature at Stony Brook tomorrow at the time of the game: 44 degrees with 99% of rain. Projected temperature at the Dome tomorrow at the time of the game: 70 degrees with 0% chance of rain, snow, or really, any other kind of inclement weather. If Cuse had to play away tomorrow, it would have made a difference.
2) The game tomorrow is at 10am. Now folks, this is strange. Think back on all of the lacrosse games you have ever watched, men's or women's. How many of them started at 10am? As a former player, what I can tell you is that my coach senior year made us wake up to eat 4 hours before a game so we wouldn't be too full. Now, not every coach feels the same way, but if Cuse and SB followed that strategy, or something similar, we are talking about a 6am wakeup. I'm just saying...put yourself in their shoes. Defenders pressing up against your arms right after breakfast? I'll pass. Having balls whipped at my face at high speeds before it's even lunch time? No thanks. Could waking up this early, jumping out of bed, and going to play a lacrosse game make a difference in tomorrow's outcome?
We will find out tomorrow my friends. First faceoff is at 10am and I've got you on the full coverage. I'll be tweeting live updates from inside the Dome the whole time. Be sure to follow along, and thanks, as always, for your support. See you then.