Syracuse defense looks to build off recent success ahead of matchup with Maryland

first_imgKara Burke just scored to pull Loyola (Maryland) within one. She got fouled just outside the crease, so the Greyhounds automatically gained possession when play restarted with six minutes left.With a chance to tie the game, Loyola’s Sydney Thomas unloaded a point-blank shot, but Syracuse goalie Kelsey Richardson made the biggest save of the game and the Orange then went down the field and scored. What could have been a tie game turned into a two-goal SU lead.“I’ve got to give credit to first of all, our defense,” Syracuse head coach Gary Gait said after his team’s 10-7 NCAA tournament quarterfinal win on Saturday. “Held a team that just scored 19 goals last game to seven. And they did a great job and it was fun to watch continuously getting the ball back … Happy to move on to the final four.”No. 4 seed Syracuse (16-7, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) will take on No. 1 seed Maryland (18-1, 5-0 Big Ten) in the national semifinals on Friday and its defense is surging at the most-needed time of year.In SU’s last five games, all against teams that qualified for the NCAA tournament, its defense has allowed an average of 8.8 goals per game. But the biggest challenge for the recharged defense is coming against a Maryland team that’s 6-0 against the Orange since 2013, including a 10-7 win on March 7.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Everybody’s had a hard time with Maryland, not just us,” Gait said on Monday afternoon. “You look over the past couple years, Maryland’s been the dominant team in women’s lacrosse and that’s certainly continued this year. We’re just looking to improve.”SU’s defensive performance against Loyola reflected its ability to step up. It was the first time all year that the Greyhounds were held under eight goals. Syracuse’s zone defense caused three turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game and shut out Loyola for the first 10 minutes of the second half.Gait said that the Greyhounds’ strength on offense is their ability to dodge effectively and get to the goal.“I think that’s why our backer zone really is a good defense to play against (Loyola), because it makes it tough to be a dodger,” Gait said. “You really got to be a feeder and find the open players and spin the ball.”The Terrapins have a balanced attack that features five players with at least 30 goals. The zone forces teams to move the ball and throughout the season, Maryland has only assisted 39.9 percent of its goals while Loyola had assisted 49.3 percent.UMD’s 10 goals in the first matchup this season against Syracuse tied a season low. The only other time this season the Terrapins scored just 10 goals was in its 11-10 loss to Ohio State, UMD’s only loss this season. The Orange played its typical zone defense in that game and while its offense wasn’t able to muster more than seven goals, its defense came through. With its season on the line on Friday night, SU’s defense will have to execute at least one more time.“We’ve handled the pressure, we’ve experienced the pressure,” Gait said on Monday. “It’s not like it’s something big or something we haven’t seen before in Maryland.” Comments Published on May 19, 2015 at 1:28 am Contact Paul: [email protected] | @pschweds Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more