April 23, 2013

Sheehan: On Syracuse, Notre Dame and Northwestern

by Sheehan Stanwick Burch | LaxMagazine.com

After starting 10-0, Notre Dame has dropped three of its last four games, with more than 20 turnovers in each of the losses. The Irish committed exactly 20 in a loss to UConn on Sunday.

There was lots of news this past week, which has not been hard to come by in an already exciting season.

The week started off on a sour note, with the announcement that Syracuse senior Michelle Tumolo tore her ACL in the Cornell game. As with many ACL tears, the injury occurred during a seemingly insignificant fall with no contact from another player. Nonetheless, it was clear by the look on Tumolo's face that she knew exactly what happened and, in an instant, her season was over. To lose one of the best attackers to wear a Syracuse uniform, and the quarterback of the 2013 team, could be disastrous for the Orange.

Syracuse was in the midst of another stellar season and had aspirations to make it back to championship weekend. You would think that Tumolo's loss would be a major blow.

That is what I thought, at least until I was on the call Friday night for the Orange's matchup against Big East foe Notre Dame. Syracuse exploded from the first whistle and looked phenomenal from end to end.

Though Tumolo was on the sideline offering encouragement and participating in the pregame festivities, I'm not sure that the Orange even needed that from her. Obviously, Syracuse would love to have one of their senior captains on the field playing, but the team played phenomenally and the depth of this squad is remarkable. Junior Alyssa Murray lit up the scoreboard with the first three scores of the game and assisted on the fourth. Murray showed real leadership.

The most impressive player on the field, however, was Syracuse senior Becca Block. She was lightning fast and literally all over the field. The box score has her stats as one ground ball, one caused turnover and four draw controls. On paper those numbers don't stand out, but watching her play in person tells a completely different story. Either the stats are wrong or you can't quantify the value that a player like Block brings to a team. She is one of the top players in the nation and very well could be the dark horse in a run for the Tewaaraton Award.

Notre Dame had it struggles and the Dome continued to be unkind to the Irish, as they have never escaped with a win. Even though the score was 11-8 in Syracuse's favor, it never felt that close. Irish goalie Ellie Hilling came up with some great saves in her 11-save performance. However, Syracuse should have cashed in on a lot of easy goals at the crease that soared over the cage. Syracuse shot 11 of 34, while Notre Dame was more effective, scoring eight goals on 15 shots.

The turnovers were troubling for Notre Dame as Syracuse seemed to rattle them on the majority of their possessions. After starting the season 10-0, Notre Dame has dropped three of its last four contests, with more than 20 turnovers in each of the losses. The Irish committed exactly 20 turnovers in loss to UConn (13-1, 5-1 Big East) on Sunday. Next up for Notre Dame is a bruised Northwestern team on Wednesday in Indiana.

Speaking of Northwestern, if you're reading this article, you know that Florida trampled the Wildcats 22-4 on Florida's senior day. Back in 2010, Florida's first recruiting class, the current senior class, did not fare so well in their first meeting against the Northwestern dynasty, falling 19-5 on the Wildcats' senior day. That loss remains the worst defeat in the short history of Florida's lacrosse program. How the tables have turned, at least for one week.

The bottom line is that Northwestern struggled, no bones about it. Draw controls, which are usually their strength, went to Florida (a margin of +6), Northwestern had one save the entire game, and they shot four for 18. Florida, on the other hand, was throwing lasers, scoring on 22 of their 28 shots. The good news for Northwestern is it most likely will get a chance for redemption if they can get hot in the ALC conference tournament.

Get your pen and paper ready to start trying to figure out the brackets. This weekend NCAA tournament automatic qualifying bids will be handed out to the ACC, Atlantic Sun, Big South, MAAC, Northeast, and Patriot League conference champions. Let the games begin!

CBS Sports Network women's lacrosse analyst and 2001 Tewaaraton Award finalist Sheehan Stanwick Burch providwa a column for LaxMagazine.com every Tuesday throughout the Division I women's college season. Follow Sheehan on Twitter @StanwickBurch.

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