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Natalie Weidenbach sighed and shook her head in frustration before another turnover near the centerline. For the past 40 minutes of the second half, Virginia had dismantled Syracuse’s defense — including Weidenbach — to the point where the Cavaliers racked up five goals in 12 minutes to form a 5-0 lead. In the first half, though, Syracuse held Virginia scoreless.
Playing well during the first half and then dropping the game has been an issue throughout the Orange’s seven-game losing streak. Syracuse held both No. 4 Duke and No. 1 Florida State to one goal going into the second half before giving up more scores. But on Sunday, Syracuse (4-8-1, 0-6-0 Atlantic Coast) stayed in the game against No. 2 Virginia (12-1-1, 5-0-1 Atlantic Coast), another ranked ACC opponent. Despite a 0-0 scoreboard at halftime, the Orange collapsed in the second half, losing 5-0.
Syracuse had the same issue last year. Through games last season against teams like Boston College and Pittsburgh, the Orange would start games strong, only to fall in the second half. Syracuse showed a change at the beginning of this season and has already surpassed 2020’s program worst 1-7 record. But after losing key starters such as midfielder Telly Vunipola due to injuries, the problem showed up again on Sept. 23 against Louisville when Syracuse lost in the 90th minute, and again against Virginia, a few weeks and four shutouts later.
“They’re … doing everything they can,” Adams said. “But when you’re playing against the best women in collegiate soccer with depleted rosters, they’re going to get tired.”
Facing up against a Cavaliers offense containing All-American Lia Godfrey, Syracuse’s defense let up seven shots on goal within the first half, but goalie Lysianne Proulx made seven saves. Syracuse tested the Cavaliers’ goal first as Kate Murphy kicked a right-footed shot into the arms of UVA goalkeeper Laurel Ivory. A minute later, Virginia’s Alexa Spaanstra approached Syracuse’s box on its right side and rifled off a shot at the left corner of the goal.
But Proulx caught the ball. Still, it would be just the first of Spaanstra’s six total attempts throughout the game. Although UVA continually pressed throughout the first half, Syracuse gained opportunities to advance through the midfield, a place where Adams said her team was able to advance upfield. But when it came to finishing in the final third, Syracuse could only produce two shots on goal. Adams said that a lack of experience and players switching into positions led to the offensive struggles.
Syracuse would go on to attempt zero shots on goal in the second half. On the left side of the field, Kylen Grant tripped up Virginia’s Samar Guidry and a whistle was blown for a free-kick. Godfrey lined the ball up, eyed Haley Hopkins hanging in the right of Syracuse’s box and punted the ball. Hopkins jumped above Syracuse defenders and nailed her attempt into the left corner. UVA would go on to score four more.
On the fifth goal, Lacey McCormack aimed toward the left corner of the net, finding the back of it. Cavaliers players began streaming back to the centerline for Syracuse kickoff to finish the game.
When the buzzer sounded 24 minutes later, Adams went from her chair on the sidelines to the bench, sat herself down at the right end and stared at the field as her players formed a stretch line. Her team is playing out of position. Adams said her team has a max of 15 to 16 players “on a good day,” while other ACC teams can play 20-plus. Her team’s entire attacking unit, the one she was “so excited” to use, struggled, too, she said. Adams stood up and retreated back to the locker room with her players.
“It was the first time I felt my team was mentally and emotionally beat up,” Adams said.
The post Despite strong start, Syracuse loses 5-0 after defensive collapse appeared first on The Daily Orange.