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Throughout the entire season, head coach Gary Gait has shortened Syracuse’s pregame warmups at away games, arriving late to make sure that the team doesn’t lose focus by being on the field before the game for too long. But Wednesday, the pregame wait time was out of the team’s control.
Duke and Notre Dame combined for 33 goals in the game prior to Syracuse’s Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament matchup with No. 7-seed Virginia Tech. The Orange had to wait an entire hour before taking the field. Gait said this had a major impact on the team, especially the attack, which came out weak.
“Our defense was dialed in. Our offense was sluggish,” Gait said. “The delay in the pregame, we were off a little bit on the O-end.”
In No. 2-seed Syracuse’s 9-4 win over No. 7-seed Virginia Tech, the Orange’s offense struggled finishing, with a shot percentage of 36% on 25 shots. The Orange also earned 11 free position opportunities, but didn’t convert a single one.
The reason for Syracuse’s lack of success on the offensive end was because of the Hokies’ defensive setup, Gait said. The Hokies run something which VT head coach John Sung refers to as a “chaser zone.”
In this defense, Virginia Tech has one defender marked on the person with the ball, with the rest of the team in a zone covering the 8-meter. But Gait said that even if an attack gets past the initial defender, the team’s zone is ready for whatever is thrown at them. Because of this look, the Orange were forced to abandon their routine weave offense, Gait said.
“Nobody else plays this type of defense,” Gait said. “It’s tough to get the rhythm of our motion offense.”
SU relies on quick passes in its motion offense, with attacks also setting picks for each other to create open space. But anytime that the Orange tried to run these plays, the Hokies maintained their presence in the 8-meter and kept pressure on whoever had the ball for Syracuse, Gait said.
When the Orange tried the weave, they would quickly move out of it and find cutters instead to get the ball in the back of the net. With 12 minutes left in the opening half, Meaghan Tyrrell began the motion offense alongside Sierra Cockerille at the top of the 8-meter.
With pressure in her face, Meaghan Tyrrell faked charging the cage and bulleted a pass at Emma Ward instead, who was cutting from the left side of the crease. Ward put the ball in the back of the net with ease to give the Orange a 3-1 lead.
But SU’s success off cutters didn’t last long, as most of its shots missed their intended mark, Gait said. SU’s attack repeatedly shot at Virginia Tech goalie Angie Benson’s stick, who finished with 11 saves.
In the second half, Ward specifically had trouble with placing her attempts. Five minutes into the last period, Emma Tyrrell gained a free position attempt. Instead of shooting, the Orange passed the ball around before Ward was left alone inside the 8-meter. Ward received the ball and aimed a strike right at the center of the cage, expecting Benson to go to the right or left. But Benson maintained her position, and Ward’s shot went right into her stick.
“More than anything, it seems like we shot into the goalie’s stick 10 times,” Gait said. “It’s an energy killer for the offense.”
Benson also created issues for Syracuse on free position opportunities. With Virginia Tech’s high-pressure defense, SU was able to draw a lot of shooting space violations in the game.
In the second half, Sam Swart earned a free position opportunity and a chance to extend Syracuse’s 8-4 lead. Swart charged the cage, like almost all SU attempts at the free position, and missed high. With less than a minute left in the game, Swart fired the same missed attempt.
After a ground ball pickup from Sarah Cooper, SU moved quick in transition to set up Swart back inside the 8-meter. This time, Swart didn’t draw a shooting space violation, and she instead fired a shot to the back of the net. Swart finally scored, but the Orange were unable to get to double digits for just the second time this season.
The post Despite win over VT, Syracuse has 2nd-worst offensive performance of season appeared first on The Daily Orange.