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Syracuse went into halftime of its NCAA Tournament opener with a 13-4 lead. A combination of a lockdown defense and a dominant offense had the Orange cruising to a quarterfinal birth. The large lead allowed the Orange to come out of halftime and control the game en route to a season-high 20 goals. If not for a running clock, Morgan Alexander’s free position shot in the dying seconds would’ve tied an NCAA Tournament single-game scoring record for Syracuse.
Here are three takeaways as Syracuse (15-3, 8-2 Atlantic Coast) advances to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals after a 20-8 win over Loyola (12-3, 4-0 Patriot League).
Syracuse’s offense comes alive in the first half
After stalling out against North Carolina in their last game, the Orange tied a season-high 13 first-half goals against Loyola’s fourth-ranked scoring defense.
Syracuse used its weave offense to create trouble for Loyola during the entire game. As Sierra Cockerille curled around the right side of Syracuse’s offense, she dumped the ball off to Meaghan Tyrrell. But as Cockerille made her run, her defender ran into Tyrrell’s defender, causing both to tumble to the ground. Tyrrell immediately saw the two downed players and took advantage by running straight at the goal and wrapping her shot around the goalie and into the net.
Tyrrell led the offense with seven goals and 10 total points, both tying career-highs.
At halftime, Syracuse was on pace to score 26 goals by the end of the game, which would have been a new Syracuse NCAA Tournament scoring record. But with a sizable lead, Syracuse could afford to pump the brakes and cruise to a second-half finish.
The Orange finally solve free position woes
For the season, Syracuse is shooting just 46% on free position opportunities, but on Sunday the Orange seemed to find a way to create better scoring chances from the 8-meter. Syracuse finished the first half 4-for-6 and used a variety of plays to put the ball in the net.
Emma Ward drew an early foul in the scoring area and lined up right across the goalie. In the past, SU head coach Gary Gait mentioned how his team would pass out of free position shots because a missed shot would just become a turnover. But in this instance, Ward seemed to have eyes only for the goal. The freshman wound up and when the whistle blew, stepped into her shot and rifled the ball into the back of the net.
It wasn’t just through shooting that Syracuse managed to find its free position touch again. At the end of the first half, Cockerille was fouled on the left side of the scoring area. When the referee blew their whistle, Cockerille lunged forward, but instead of shooting, she passed across the goal to Emily Ehle, who made a backdoor cut from behind the net to get open. Ehle gathered the ball and had an empty net to shoot at as she scored her first goal of the afternoon.
Defense continues to hold steady
After a strong showing in the ACC Tournament final, the Syracuse defense continued its momentum in the NCAA Tournament opener. The Greyhounds score an average of almost 15 goals per game, but the Orange held them to just four first-half goals.
The Greyhounds began their first possession by ringing the post with a low shot. After that, however, the Syracuse defense began to shut down any opportunities that Loyola had. Syracuse’s pressure zone forced Loyola into hurried shots that would often fly harmlessly wide of Asa Goldstock’s goal.
But when the Greyhounds did find a look at Goldstock’s net, she stood tall to make the save. On one of Loyola’s rare goals, Elli Kluegel drove at Goldstock and shot low and to the left. Goldstock lunged right and did the split in her attempt to save the shot, but she was too late and it trickled past her.
Less than two minutes later, Kluegel had another free position opportunity. Having just scored, Kluegel tried the same shot again, but this time Goldstock dropped low to the ground and flashed her cradle in front of the ball, making the big save.
By the time the game ended, Goldstock had seven saves as Syracuse managed to hold Loyola to just four goals again in the second half.
The post 3 takeaways from No. 3 seed Syracuse’s 2nd-round win over Loyola appeared first on The Daily Orange.