March 15, 2011

Sheehan Stanwick Burch: Georgetown, Notre Dame, Syracuse Already at Breaking Point

by Sheehan Stanwick Burch |

Shaylyn Blaney and Notre Dame have suffered three non-conference losses, setting up must-wins this week against BU and Cornell.

© TD Paulius/Midwest Lacrosse Photography

The unexpected has become the norm, and it seems the traditional Big East women's lacrosse powerhouses have ended up on the losing end of that equation.

This past weekend, Notre Dame suffered its third non-conference loss on the season to unranked Ohio State. The good news for the Irish is that, in recent years, they've been able to overcome these stumbling blocks to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.

This year, however, Notre Dame's losses have come at the hands of some unranked teams. Looking back, the early-season loss to Stanford doesn't appear to be so bad, since Stanford continues to notch quality wins. However, Notre Dame does not have much room for error. A few more losses, the Irish may have to rely on the automatic bid by winning the conference tournament to make the 2011 NCAA tournament.

Georgetown has also come out of the gate slow this year, losing the first three contests of its season to Northwestern, Florida and Duke. The Hoyas have one of the toughest schedules in the country, and they did not do themselves any favors by starting their season almost three weeks later than some of their opponents.

As they wrapped up their first week of play, it was clear that Georgetown could have used a few "warm-up" games to work out a few kinks.

The margin of loss in Georgetown's first three games, however, indicate larger issues both offensively and defensively. The Hoyas have lost by an average of eight goals. The Florida loss was especially tough, as many prognosticators had picked Georgetown to prevail over the up-and-coming Gators. Instead, it seemed as if Georgetown was never able to combat Florida's athleticism in the 17-10 loss.

As the Hoyas play more games, inexperience will be less of a factor. Until then, experienced players like Jordy Kirr will have to step up.

Syracuse has also had to deal with an early-season skid, with losses to three quality opponents in Stanford, Virginia and Maryland. Even though the Orange lost 7-5 this weekend, there was much to celebrate. During the Maryland game, Syracuse turned to a game plan that many teams have employed against the Terps – the stall.

Syracuse held the ball on its attacking end in an effort to deny the Terps the ball and tire out the Maryland middies and defense. The Orange executed that game plan well. It's hard to possess the ball and keep Maryland from going on double-digit scoring runs, and Syracuse was able to hold Maryland to its lowest scoring total of the season.

In the end, Syracuse came up short, but when you have a goalie like Liz Hogan, I like the your chances of coming away with the win more often then not. It is no fun to play or watch a possession/stall game. But winning is fun, and if it takes that strategy to get a season jumpstarted, it seems even Gary Gait is game.

About the Author

Sheehan Stanwick Burch, a former All-American at Georgetown, is a college women's lacrosse analyst for CBS College Sports. Check each week for columns and podcasts.

Not all Big East teams are struggling at the start of the season. Loyola has bucked the trend and remains unbeaten. The Greyhounds have been able to do this with consistent play on both ends of the field. The highlight of their season so far is the 15-8 opening win over Virginia. Even though Loyola's strength of schedule is not as tough as some of its Big East foes, you can only play the teams on your schedule, and Loyola has beaten them all.

A smart coach once told me, "The biggest game of the season is always the next game on the schedule." This could not be truer for Notre Dame, Georgetown and Syracuse; they all need to win now.

Notre Dame has two opportunities to get back into the win column this week, with games against Boston University and Cornell. BU may be a tough matchup, though. The Terriers are riding high after beating No. 15 Dartmouth.

After a rough start, Georgetown takes on Johns Hopkins and North Carolina. The Hoyas need to make a statement against Hopkins, a team that is young but is playing with confidence, having posted a 4-1 record so far this season.

Syracuse has Towson and Florida ahead of it this week. I think the Orange will likely be able to handle the Tigers, but the Gators -- ranked 10th in this week's IWLCA poll, the fastest team to reach that mark in its infancy -- have proven that they will be a challenge.

The start of Big East conference play is right around the corner for these teams. Perhaps one will separate itself from the others and get on a hot streak just in time for the Big East tournament -- and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

At this point, it's their best hope.

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