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Several Syracuse programs are finishing seasons marked by shortened schedules and coronavirus precautions. Volleyball and women’s soccer played a conference-only, eight game schedule while men’s soccer managed just five games.
As seasons come to a close, The Daily Orange Sports Staff analyzed the most telling statistics from each team:
The lion’s share of blame for Syracuse’s abysmal 2020 season goes to its offense. There are plausible explanations for the offensive failures — two starting running backs opting out, an inexperienced offensive line and Tommy DeVito’s injury — but the woes are nonetheless alarming.
Of the 125 FBS teams to play this year, Syracuse’s 4.1 yards per play ranks 121st. Its running game of 2.9 yards per carry has been non-functional, and its passing offense has been too reliant on home run plays. Offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert and head coach Dino Babers have been dealt a poor hand, but the product on the field has been disastrous.
In the Orange’s (0-3-2, 0-3-2 Atlantic Coast) winless season, the two points Syracuse accumulated meant it finished at the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference North Region standings. However, those two points deserve an asterisk. SU also had two regular season games canceled on its 2020 schedule, meaning it played the fewest games of any ACC program.
But even in those five matches, there were opportunities to pick up a win. Deandre Kerr’s two-goal performance against Louisville, with the second putting Syracuse ahead by two, was emblematic of the Orange’s struggles in front of goal. Kerr’s two goals against the Cardinals were the only ones that SU forwards scored all season. It’s a small sample size, and Kerr, Luther Archimede and Manel Busquets all flashed in limited action. But if the Orange want to compete next year, they’ll need to be more clinical in front of goal.
Syracuse (1-7, 1-7 ACC) finished with its worst record in program history, scoring just five goals in eight games. The Orange played only ACC opponents and began with five straight scoreless games. In that stretch, SU took 31 shots before finally scoring against Boston College. Only winless Miami, who was Syracuse’s lone win of the season, scored fewer goals than the Orange in the ACC.
The lack of goals ended any hopes Syracuse had of making it into the ACC tournament. Notre Dame, at 4-4, is the lowest seed in the ACC tournament, and SU’s five-game scoreless streak ended any chance of finishing at or above .500. SU scored all of its five goals after it was effectively out of the ACC tournament.
The Orange’s forwards lacked that finishing touch all season, as most of SU’s goals were scored by defenders off of set pieces. In the ACC, SU finished the season ranked second-worst in scoring average and total shots and worst in corners won, which is how the Orange managed to score three of their five goals.
All of Syracuse’s (5-4, 3-2 ACC) nine games this season were decided by one goal, making it paramount for Syd Taylor to have the best save percentage possible in her first season as starting goalkeeper. By the end of the season, Syracuse had the second-highest save percentage, 73.4%, in the ACC. Taylor faced at least 10 shots in all but one game this season.
Taylor was named ACC Defensive Player of the Week after a career-high seven saves against Wake Forest on Oct. 19. Despite facing 41 shots in three games from Oct. 16 and Oct. 19, Taylor allowed just three shots to find the back of the net.
But SU’s high save percentage wasn’t just down to Taylor. Freshman Eefke van den Nieuwenhof led the conference with three defensive saves, including a game-sealing save against Louisville with one minute left. Throughout the season, SU’s defense allowed plenty of shots, but few made it over the goal line.
The Orange’s (4-4, 4-4 ACC) star offensive player, Polina Shemanova, had only 90 kills in eight games, the lowest total in her three-year career. Shemanova, who set the program record in kills per set last season with 5.16, averaged only 3.33 this year. SU started the season with two straight wins against three-time defending ACC champ Pittsburgh, but without Shemanova’s offensive presence, the team went on a four-game losing streak.
But in its last two games of the season, Syracuse brought more offensive options into the lineup, such as middle blockers Marina Markova, Abby Casiano and outside hitter Ella Saada. Markova created an impact through a tactic known as the slide set, where she would sidestep behind the setter and go up for a kill. In the matchup against Boston College on Oct. 17, Shemanova had her second-lowest career total with four kills, but SU won in straight sets with 14 kills from Markova and 13 from Saada, finishing the season with a .500 record.
Despite a disappointing end to a shortened season, Syracuse still had 26 top-10 finishes throughout the year. Syracuse men dominated the first meet of the season against Army in West Point, taking nine of the top ten spots. The women were able to finish with three out of the top 10 spots, with Amanda Vestri finishing first overall.
The Battle at Beantown saw the men taking eight of the top 10 spots, while the women placed four in the top eight. The final standings in Boston also included JP Trojan and Vestri’s second first-place finishes. In the ACC Championship, Vestri finished 2nd and the Syracuse women placed eighth overall. The men placed sixth due to strong finishes from Joe Dragon and Matthew Scrape.
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