As a crowd of players raced down the field toward Syracuse’s goal, Telly Vunipola laid on the ground in Cornell’s penalty box. The two teams played for over a hundred minutes without a goal, but the senior attack had just been shoved to the grass on a corner kick.
Despite the chorus of dissent from Syracuse fans and audible pleading from assistant coach Brandon Denoyer, the referee never blew his whistle for a penalty.
“I thought Telly got shoved pretty hard so I was surprised that wasn’t called and we had another one over here,” head coach Nicky Adams said. “[It’s] part of the game, you get some calls, you don’t, you gotta roll with it.”
Syracuse (4-1-1, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) and Cornell (1-2-2, 0-0 Ivy League) played to a standstill for 110 minutes — the first time all year the Orange failed to score. Syracuse dominated possession in the final third and secured many set-piece opportunities, but was unable to defeat Cornell’s rigid defensive formation.
Syracuse’s offense revolves around playing balls through the midfield, but Cornell played its backline 25 yards away from its front line, forcing a young SU team to adapt like no other game they played this year, defender Natalie Weidenbach said.
“They were playing a really tight shape, where their front line was almost on their backline, so we were trying to ping balls over and make them drop,” Weidenbach said.
In the majority of Syracuse’s games this year, it has controlled the ball from the jump and recorded several good opportunities in the opening period. In the first five games of the year, the Orange averaged over ten shots in the first half. Against Cornell, SU only managed two.
Although Syracuse controlled more possession than Cornell in the first half, the Orange couldn’t penetrate the Big Red defense and neither team earned easy chances in the period. Syracuse’s best effort came in the 35th minute, when a chip from the 25 yards out by Pauline Machtens beat the goalkeeper. But the attempt flew just over the bar and nestled in the netting above the goal.
In the second half, the Orange added another midfielder to try to crack the Big Red defense, and although they did secure more chances, they couldn’t convert. In extra time, Syracuse pushed Cornell’s defense even harder and dominated them even more in possession, but still couldn’t find the back of the net.
Adams said injuries to Syracuse’s attacking players were one of the main reasons for the Orange’s struggles in the box. Graduate transfer forwards Blue Ellis and Chelsea Domond both played in SU’s preseason exhibition games, but neither has been featured in the regular season due to knee injuries. Freshman forward Ashley Rauch started the first three games of the year and notched a goal and an assist, but has been injured and unable to play since. Jenna Tivnan, a captain, a fixture on the Orange backline and an essential tenet on set pieces, also missed tonight’s game with an injury.
“Jenna wasn’t in, and she’s usually my target on those set pieces,” Weidenbach said. “But I think Emma Klein stepped up and Pauline [Machtens] stepped up and Telly stepped up to try to get on the end of them.”
Tivnan provides more than just her tall frame for set pieces, also contributing her skills as a distributor from the backfield, Adams said. Against Cornell’s congested midfield, Adams said the team missed Tivnan’s ability to service long balls to the team’s forwards.
Despite Tivnan’s absence, the Syracuse backline held Cornell to just six shots, leading to three quick saves for goalkeeper Lysianne Proulx. Klein, Tivnan’s normal center-back partner, started several opportunities and organized the backline on set pieces and in transition. Defenders Klein, Zoe Van De Cloot, and Weidenbach played all 110 minutes of the match. The Orange recorded its third straight shutout, which hasn’t been done since 2016, when Phil Wheddon was the head coach.
Syracuse extended its unbeaten streak to four games, another first under Adams, who saw the match as a good experience for the extremely young roster.
“Yes it’s a tie but it excites me that we were uncomfortable,” Adams said. “We bent but we didn’t break.”
The post Syracuse shut out for 1st time in 2021 season, ties Cornell 0-0 appeared first on The Daily Orange.