It would be very hard to argue that the ACC is not the best conference in the NCAA for women’s soccer. The defending national champion, Florida State, tops the pre-season charts alongside five other schools as follows:
- 1. Florida State
- 2. Duke
- 4. UVA
- 10. UNC
- 16. Notre Dame
- 25. Clemson
While FSU and Notre Dame are not on the Orange’s schedule this year, they still will be tasked with taking on the other four ranked teams this season. Head Coach Nicky Adams did not inherit an easy role when she took over in 2019. Adams was focused on a culture change when she took over and then had to deal with COVID-19.
This looks to be, knock on wood, the first unhindered season that Adams has. The Orange had a tough year last year in the ACC, but a fresh, pandemic free year should lead to improvement from Adam’s side. Before jumping into this year's schedule, let's look back at last year briefly.
Syracuse, including their exhibition matches, started the season 6-1-1. They beat Army and Lafayette in exhibition contests before grabbing a 2-0 win over Fairleigh Dickinson. A tough battle with Niagara that saw a hat trick from Purple Eagle Junior Florence Vailancourt slowed the winning ways. The Orange then went onto win three contests in a row over Eastern Michigan, Binghamton and New Hampshire.
Before entering ACC play, they worked a 0-0 draw against Cornell but then UConn put together a relentless offensive display in a 3-0 loss for Syracuse. ACC play was a letdown after the start they had. The Orange ended up losing their last 11 contests, all 10 ACC matches and were outscored 34 to 7 in ACC play. Playing on the road was a big struggle for them as Syracuse managed just one win compared to their six losses when traveling.
A major goal when looking at this year's schedule has to be improvement, building on last season. To expect an immediate jump to the top of the conference would be too much to ask. This team, however, showed at the start of last season that they are capable of winning and stringing wins together. The Orange were excellent out of conference and they need to use their non-conference schedule to their advantage this year.
Army and Niagara will be the exhibition matches this year—two familiar opponents. The Orange beat Army 1-0 last season. Army finished with a 7-9-3 record overall and lost to Boston University in the Patriot League Semi Final. Niagara was an extremely strong side last year that put together an impressive 13-4-1 record including a 4-2 win over Syracuse. Their season ended with penalties to Fairfield in the MAAC Championships. This team will have a lot to prove and will likely be quite hungry this season. They together make for a perfect test to begin the year.
Here is the schedule for the Non-Conference games that count towards their record:
August: 18th- Vs. New Hampshire
21st- Vs. UConn
25th- Vs. Lafayette
28th- Vs. Siena
September: 1st- @ Eastern Michigan
4th- Vs. Merrimack
8th- @ Binghamton
11th- Vs. Cornell
The only two out of conference teams that the Orange play this year that were not on their schedule last year are Siena and Merrimack. Syracuse came out on top against Lafayette 2-0, Eastern Michigan 2-1, Binghamton 1-0 and New Hampshire 2-0 last year. They, as previously mentioned, drew with Cornell in a goalless contest and lost 3-0 to UConn.
What stands out the most in this schedule is when they play UConn and even Niagara. UConn and Niagara were the opponents that gave the Orange the most trouble before conference play began. Niagara moves up earlier in the schedule to an exhibition game while UConn goes from being the last non-conference opponent to their second (fourth if you count the exhibitions). With those tougher tests moving up it would not be surprising to see, even if both games result in a loss, that the Orange are able to get more out of those games.
UConn seemed to be a tough loss that left the start of ACC play on the wrong foot. By moving those games up Coach Adam’s and her staff will be able to learn a lot about their squad against some tougher competition. The tougher games come without as much risk of a rough final game or two starting out conference play on a sour note.
The ACC games are where everyone’s eyes probably looked as soon as the schedule was available. This is where the team needs to improve. The Orange need to avoid letting ACC play get away from them and find ways to battle. Here is their conference schedule:
September: 16th- Vs. Duke
22nd- Vs. North Carolina
25th Vs. Miami
October: 2nd- @ Wake Forest
6th- @ Boston College
9th- @ Virginia
14th- Vs. Clemson
20th- @ Pittsburgh
23rd- @ Virginia Tech
27th- Vs. North Carolina State
Syracuse avoided FSU and Notre Dame on their schedule but still will meet six schools who were in the NCAA tournament. Miami, Boston College and UNC are the new additions to the conference schedule this year.
What games standout? Miami is going to be an important contest. After facing #2 Duke and #10 UNC back-to-back they take on a team that finished just one game better than them in the ACC last season. If the Orange can battle out a draw or at least play two competitive games against the pair of North Carolina schools, then they should be prepared for their game against Miami.
Next on their schedule is Boston College, another new opponent in this year’s schedule that Syracuse can beat. BC was 12th in the ACC last year with just one win in conference play. Both BC and Miami should be seen as two games that could indicate a step in the right direction where the Orange will need to, and should, win.
Virginia and Clemson back-to-back is the area that seems to be the most concerning. Those two teams on paper aren’t quite as frightening as UNC and Duke but the pair of UVA and Clemson gave Syracuse a great deal of trouble last year. The Cavaliers beat Syracuse 5-0 while the Tigers topped the Orange 8-0 last year.
Two games that should not be written in as losses, but two games where Syracuse is going to be able to measure their progress. Those two were their weakest performances last year that will be right at the heart of ACC play. They, again, need to be games where the Orange should show that they are a competitive squad against even the conference's best.
Finally, a look at Virginia Tech. This was the last game of the year last season and the Orange fell 2-1 in a close match. Lysianne Proulx made 10 saves for Syracuse in that contest. Just as the other games that have been highlighted provide a chance to show that they have improved from one season to the next, this game at the end of the season giving the team a similar opportunity. A win before their game against NC State, a team that participated in the NCAA tournament last year, could send a message to the conference.
The set schedule will provide numerous chances for this team to prove that they have made strides from last season.
Here are the final standings in the ACC last year for a final reference before play begins:
ACC Record (Overall)
- Virginia 8-0-2 (18-3-2)
- Florida State 7-1-2 (22-1-2)
- Duke 7-2-1(16-4-1)
- Notre Dame 7-3-0 (14-6-2)
- Clemson 6-3-1 (12-7-1)
- North Carolina 5-2-3 (12-3-3)
- Wake Forest 6-4-0 (16-6-0)
- Virginia Tech 5-3-2 (12-6-2)
- Pitt 4-6-0 (11-7-0)
- NC State 4-6-0 (9-9-2)
- Louisville 3-6-1 (7-7-2)
- Boston College 1-9-0 (7-10-1)
- Miami 1-9-0 (4-12-0)
- Syracuse 0-10-0 (4-12-1)
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