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During head coach Nicky Adams’ first season, the Orange (3-11-2, 1-7-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) struggled with injuries and, consequently, a lack of experience and chemistry on the pitch. They did improve from an 0-10 conference record the year prior, starting 2-0 for the first time since 2004 with wins over Colgate and Siena. The Orange proceeded to go 0-7-2 in their next nine matches, scoring only one goal in that span.
The highlight of the season was an Oct. 10 match against Wake Forest on Pink Night. The team honored SU guard and breast cancer survivor Tiana Mangakahia before the match and later completed a 2-1 come-from-behind victory in overtime. It dropped the following four matches, and senior night was canceled because of weather. The impending ACC Tournament left no room for rescheduling.
That was 2019. Here’s a look at the 2020 squad — who’s gone, who’s returning, who’s new and what worked for this team a season ago.
The Orange will be without two of their three top scorers from 2019, seniors Sydney Brackett and Taylor Bennett. Brackett missed five matches while recovering from an MCL injury last season, yet she still tied Bennett for second on the squad with two goals. On an offensively-starved team, Syracuse finished last in the ACC for goals scored with 12.
Bennett served as Adams’ anchor on the defensive end. As injuries continued to deplete SU’s offense, Bennett’s range increased. The senior started every match, and she scored the equalizer in a 1-1 draw against Pittsburgh on Sept. 20, securing Syracuse’s first non-defeat in conference play since 2017. Bennett currently plays for Afturelding, a second-division professional club in Iceland.
Another key loss will be team captain Georgia Allen, who Adams referred to as the team’s “ultimate professional.” Though she missed four matches due to injury and her contributions were rarely reflected on the stat sheet, she controlled the Orange’s tempo when the U21 England national team’s midfielder was on the pitch. Allen now plays in the FA Women’s National League for Ipswich Town FC.
Kate Hostage — the Orange’s 2018 leading-scorer — returns after missing all of 2019 with an injury. Hostage led SU in both goals (four) and assists (two) the season before last. Without Brackett and Allen, Hostage will be tasked to create the bulk of SU’s offensive chances this season.
Goalkeeper Lysianne Proulx, a Quebec-native and the Orange’s starting goalkeeper, will also return in 2020 after leading the ACC with 96 saves last season. She recorded a career-high three shutouts, albeit saving no more than five shots in each of those matches. Proulx shined against top opponents, including an eight-save performance against No. 6 Florida State where she conceded only once, and a season-high 10 saves on the road at Auburn.
Also back for the Orange is forward Meghan Root. As a sophomore in 2019, she led SU in goals (three) and assists (two). Two of those goals came in the Wake Forest victory on Oct. 10 — Syracuse’s first conference victory in nearly two years. Adams has previously said that Root struggles with self-confidence in her play at times. Now an upperclassmen and key offensive weapon, the junior is expected to develop in that regard this season.
Last season was marred with inconsistency in all facets of play. With just 12 available players on the roster at certain points, it was difficult to build momentum. When Syracuse did have fresh legs towards the beginning of matches, they excelled in two areas in particular. First, following a “cat-and-mouse” tactic introduced by first-year assistant Harold Warren, center backs Bennett and Shannon Aviza were able to keep themselves between opponents and the net, resulting in few good scoring chances. Only 13 of Syracuse’s 28 goals allowed last season came in the first half.
On the other end of the pitch, the Orange created more chances than their 12-goal total suggests. Brackett, Allen or defender Clarke Brown found success streaking down the sideline to win Syracuse a corner. Though the Orange finished last in goals, they were third to last with 60 corners.
Until her recruits can begin to make an impact in 2021, Adams made it clear Syracuse would scour the transfer portal this offseason. The program promptly scored Central Michigan-transfer Alina Miagkova. Born in Russia, Miagkova missed a portion of last season to represent her country at the senior level in multiple World Cup qualifying matches. The defender finished third on the CMU squad with three goals and seven points. Miagkova may replace Bennett as the anchor of Syracuse’s backline, but she also possesses midfield experience should Adams choose to give her a larger role like Allen’s last season.
Another veteran newcomer is graduate transfer Olivia Erlbeck. The former Duke midfielder played over 1,500 minutes as a freshman, notching a goal and five assists. But her playing time plummeted to 202 minutes in 2017, and Erlbeck did not see the field in 2018. Though she appeared in only seven matches with the Blue Devils last season, she still brings depth and experience to the Orange.
Former Rutgers forward Carina Hendley rounds out SU’s transfers. The grad student’s college career has played out much like Erlbecks’ — the bulk of her college playing time came as a freshman.
Syracuse also welcomes six freshmen to the mix: D Lindsey Brick, F Aysia Cobb, F/M Raia James, M Lauren Jewett, D Kate Murphy and New Zealand-native, F Hannah Pilley.
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