No. 4 Syracuse’s best defense ‘in a long time’ stifles No. 12 Loyola in 15-11 win

first_img Published on February 27, 2019 at 8:14 pm Contact Eric: [email protected] | @esblack34 As Loyola’s offense settled on Syracuse’s side of the field, a wave of “defense” chants began to sound from the SU sidelines. The Orange hadn’t scored in nearly 20 minutes, and the players on their bench, along with their fans, were getting antsy. With the Greyhounds attempting to mount a comeback, Syracuse needed something to give it a spark. Moments later, SU’s defense responded by forcing an errant pass. Megan Carney sprinted upfield to corral the overthrow before turning over her left shoulder and finding Meaghan Tyrrell. Tyrrell shuffled the ball to Natalie Wallon, who dropped off a pass to set up a Nicole Levy score.Seven seconds after its defense caused its ninth turnover of the game, Syracuse turned the giveaway into a goal. No. 4 Syracuse (5-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) has relied on its defense to create offense this season, and Wednesday’s 15-11 win over No. 12 Loyola (1-2) was no different. Against a team that defeated then-No. 5 Florida four days ago, the Orange showed no hesitation while attacking the Greyhounds’ offense. Syracuse’s defensive intensity not only forced Loyola into committing 15 turnovers but limited Loyola to a season-low 23 shots. “The pieces to the puzzle, they’re working well together, and they’re causing turnovers,” SU head coach Gary Gait said. “They’re getting the ball back for us.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFrom the game’s opening draw control, the Orange defense stifled Loyola from the start. After SU forced a Greyhounds shot attempt on its first possession to go awry, Sarah Cooper caused a turnover that allowed Wallon to push the ball upfield. Less than a minute after the giveaway, Syracuse scored the first goal of the game. A few minutes later, Ella Simkins took on the protagonist role by knocking the ball out of Loyola attack Emily Cooper’s stick. Like  first possession of the game, the ensuing possession turned into points. And Wallon, just like she did on the first turnover, was the player that bridged the two halves of the field into points.The senior was often responsible for clearing the ball and getting it to the Orange offense. After the Simkins turnover, Wallon found Sam Swart, who ran a pick-and-roll with Emily Hawryschuk, resulting in Syracuse’s fourth goal in as many possessions to start the game. While she only earned the “hockey assist” on Hawryschuk’s goal, Wallon did tally a career-high three assists in the game.“Today we saw a lot of transition goals,” Wallon said, “which I think just goes to show that the middies are working hard to play both ends of the field…our defense has been the star of the show this year.”Last season, the Orange allowed 13.8 goals per game to their opponents. That included a 21-goal barrage by North Carolina in the first round of the ACC tournament, a game in which the Tar Heels poured in 14 goals by halftime. This year, Syracuse’s defense has improved, Gait said. Fourteen goals is the most SU’s given up in a game, which it allowed to No. 1 Boston College and No. 4 Northwestern. Even in those two contests, the Orange held high-scoring offenses to totals significantly lower than their season averages. Against teams not ranked in the top-5, SU has played better defense. In its three games against unranked opponents, SU has given up just 16 total goals. The 11 goals the Greyhounds scored on Wednesday are the fewest Syracuse has given up against a ranked team since last season. “I just think that we have better communication within each other and our shifts,” Simkins said. “That definitely helps us get a lot of caused turnovers. We all just really trust the process with some of the defenses that we’re running.”Following Syracuse’s 15-5 win over Binghamton in its second game of the season, Gait said that it was too early to grade the team’s defense. Instead, he said he’d have to wait to gauge the defense until the Orange played ranked opponents. After a two-goal loss to the nation’s top team and a pair of wins against teams ranked in the top-12, Gait was finally able to assess its play on Wednesday.“Defense is playing great,” Gait said. “They are stepping up and playing well together. I think it’s our best defense we’ve had in a long time.” Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more