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Facing a wall of Wake Forest players, Pauline Machtens lined up for a free kick with Koby Commandant to her right on standby. For the past 65 minutes of Sunday’s game, Syracuse had come close to scoring against the Demon Deacons but had difficulties connecting for a goal. This time, though, there was a plan.
Head coach Nicky Adams yelled out from the sideline to begin. Commandant jumped over the ball, streamlining toward the left of the Deacons’ box to fake out her defenders. Machtens passed the ball with her right foot and went wide, missing Commandant completely. Assistant coach Brandon DeNoyer’s hand slapped the metal chair to the left of him in frustration.
The Orange lost 2-0 against the Demon Deacons (10-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast) from a lack of cohesion on its offensive end on Sunday. Syracuse (4-5-1, 0-2 Atlantic Coast) only shot twice on goal by utilizing a shifted playing style spurred by five of SU’s forwards and several defenders. Injuries are the main factor in why Adams has thrust defenders such as Kylen Grant into the Orange’s offensive plan, why they’ve scored only one goal in the past five games, and why they’ve extended their losing streak to four.
“They’re all out. I’m not getting them (back) for the rest of the season,” Adams said. “We’re having to readjust and reinvent an offensive identity now that’s not what we’re used to.”
Adams said her new playstyle is about slowing down the opposing offense and about focusing more on possession and unit-based attack by having more presence in the opponent’s box. It’s different from the head coach’s normal playing style, one focused on attacking aggressively through her front line and having three or four key goal scorers.
On Thursday, Louisville was the Orange’s first game with its new playing style, and it resulted in a loss. As Syracuse enters into ranked play next week against ACC opponents Duke and Florida State, it’ll again be one of the only options it has with a depleted roster.
“ACC is unforgiving,” Adams said. “They do not care if you’re injured.”
Wake Forest pressed its offense into Syracuse’s box early, taking advantage of a shifted Syracuse defense that switched around throughout the game, such as moving up the center back Emma Klein to the midfield. Just 10 minutes into the game, Sofia Rossi rifled a shot out of Syracuse’s box with her right foot but completely missed right.
The main strategy Syracuse had going into the game was beating Notre Dame out on the transition end and using its high attacker to regain the zone on the field, Adams said. In an opportunity during the 13th minute, forward Meghan Root right-foot passed outside Wake Forest’s box toward Grant while she enclosed on the left side. Grant knocked the ball into the right corner, but a whistle was blown for offsides.
Six minutes later, Wake Forest’s Ryanne Brown fed Hulda Arnarsdottir while she sat at 12 yards. The ball landed into the high right corner and put the Deacons up 1-0.
Syracuse, who has thrived off corner kicks to create scoring options throughout the beginning of the season, had four corners in the first half. But with Jenna Tivnan, Syracuse’s primary target on corners, being out due to injury, graduate student Natalie Weidenbach said her team’s option has expanded to cover multiple options inside the box. Including a shot on goal within the game’s dwindling minutes, none of her kicks connected.
In the second half, an injury to Root added onto the pile of lost Syracuse forwards held together by a field of primarily out-of-position Syracuse underclassmen playing against ACC foe Wake Forest. In the 73rd minute, Shayla Smart inside Syracuse’s box chipped a shot over Syracuse defenders. The shot hit Lysianne Proulx’s left mitt, but it hit the high corner and extended the Deacon’s lead to 2-0.
Following Wake Forest’s second goal, DeNoyer mumbled from his chair: “Does it ever end?”
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