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After an ACC Tournament quarterfinals exit, No. 5 seed Syracuse will face Fairfield on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Though the Orange are the highest seed in the pod, SU’s first two games will be played in Princeton, New Jersey, as it didn’t meet the NCAA’s travel and lodging requirements.
In 2021, Syracuse advanced to its third-ever national championship, but Tewaaraton winner Charlotte North’s six goals propelled Boston College to a 16-10 win. The Orange wouldn’t face the Eagles until the national championship game, but will likely have to go through No. 4 Northwestern and No. 1 North Carolina before potentially making its second-consecutive title game.
Here’s what our beat writers predict will happen in the NCAA Tournament:
It’s a GDTBATH
Loss to UNC in Final Four
Though Syracuse has lost to Northwestern, Boston College and North Carolina, it didn’t lose by more than two goals in any of those games. It did have poor performances at Florida in March and against Virginia in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals, but those performances were anomalies. The Orange’s strengths lie in their offense, as they boast the seventh-best scoring offense in the country. They also record the fourth-most draw controls per game.
Those strengths should be enough to get them through the first two rounds against Fairfield and either UMass or Princeton. In the second round, it’ll likely be Princeton, the hosts, who pose the toughest test, as it has the 10th-best offensive efficiency and ninth-best turnover rate, per Lacrosse Reference. Regardless, the attack of Emily Hawryschuk, Meaghan Tyrrell and Megan Carney — who have combined for 157 goals — should comfortably advance the Orange to the quarterfinals, most likely in a rematch with No. 4 Northwestern.
In March in Evanston, Illinois, SU led 15-12 with just under four minutes left, but conceded a 3-0 run to end regulation. Northwestern secured the opening draw of overtime and scored on the free-position. SU proved it can handle the Wildcats, but I think by the skin of their teeth they’ll advance, though SU will be without Emma Tyrrell this time and Northwestern is out for revenge from last year’s Final Four defeat to the Orange.
At this point, Syracuse has advanced to its ninth Final Four, but I don’t think it will advance to its second-consecutive national championship with No. 1 North Carolina sending the Orange packing. My biggest concern with the Orange is the goalies. They haven’t been super consistent all year, as evident in the game against UVA, and it’ll be a factor throughout the tournament. I think it’ll be close, like it was in April, but on a neutral field, it’ll be a good day to be a Tar Heel.
Loss to Northwestern in Quarterfinals
Syracuse has not won a game in nearly a month. While the long layover times were the biggest factor for this, the Orange’s performance in their lone ACC Tournament game was concerning. SU turned the ball over 14 times and gave Virginia eight free position attempts, tied for second most in a single game all season. Outside of Meaghan, Hawryschuk and Carney, there wasn’t much scoring against the Cavaliers.
Despite these struggles, I think the Orange’s depth will rebound against the MAAC champions Fairfield. If Syracuse takes care of Fairfield, it’ll most likely face Princeton, champions of the Ivy League. The Tigers offer much more of a challenge for the Orange. Princeton and SU have an equal adjusted offensive efficiency per Lacrosse Reference. What concerns me is that the Tigers have a much better and consistent goalie, Sam Fish. Still, the Orange have gone up against teams with good goalies like Duke and Notre Dame and succeeded.
But I feel SU’s tournament run will end in Evanston, Illinois with a loss to No. 4 Northwestern. The two teams played in March and it was a game SU easily could have won. The Orange blew a three-goal lead in the final four minutes of regulation and conceded a free position attempt which cost them their first loss.
While SU has a very talented trio, Northwestern has a great top three as well. Lauren Gilbert, Erin Coykendall and Jill Girardi dominated in the Big Ten this year. They finished with more combined goals and points than SU’s three attackers. But what will be the deciding factor is the goalkeeping. Madison Doucette has a much higher save percentage than Kimber Hower and Delaney Sweitzer. Doucette will be able to make crucial stops in the Wildcats’ revenge over last year’s Final Four matchup.
2022 NCAA tournament champions
If Syracuse has learned its lesson from the loss to Virginia, it won’t play down to the level of Fairfield or the winner of Princeton/Massachusetts. The Stags have played a light schedule compared to Syracuse, and have lost in their only two games against ranked opponents. Now, if Princeton wins, it could be a bit more difficult since the Tigers will have the home field advantage. However, Princeton is 0-3 against top 10 teams, two of which Syracuse beat.
Assuming Syracuse plays Northwestern in the quarterfinals, the Orange have shown that they can win this matchup, but they just need to play the full 60 minutes against the Wildcats. This time, expect Syracuse to shut down Gilbert, who scored seven goals in the last outing. If they do so, they’ll punch their ticket to the final four.
The toughest task of the tournament will be undefeated North Carolina in the Final Four, but the last time the two teams battled in the Carrier Dome the Orange were depleted due to injuries. This time will be different, and with other players like Smith and Jenny Markey comfortable in their new roles, SU has a prime opportunity to win.
Once it reaches the championship game, all prior injuries, storylines, and records get thrown out the window. A game against Maryland would be favorable, but a rematch of Boston College seems more plausible. Even though Syracuse has lost twice to the Eagles the last two times the teams have played, as the saying goes: you almost never beat a team three times in a row. Behind the coaching of Kayla Treanor, the craftiness of Meaghan and the leadership of Harwyschuk, the Orange have a real shot to win the tournament.
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