April 25, 2013

Without Tumolo, Syracuse Offense Shows New Look

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Midfielder Amy Cross is among several players that will see increased offensive roles as the Orange shuffles its lineup to replace injured Michelle Tumolo.
© Anne Ryan

It was a pretty routine affair.

On a man-up play, Syracuse senior attacker Michelle Tumolo wrapped around the left side of the crease and hit sophomore attacker Kailah Kempney with a pass as the latter cut up the middle. Kempney scored on a low quick stick. It was the third goal of a six-goal opening run of a 16-4 win for the Orange over the Big Red. Tumolo had 24 assists this season, and 161 in her Syracuse career. The announcer for a local Syracuse radio station, Z98, described it thusly: "Really a classic feed for Michelle."

It was. It also seems likely that it was the last point of her college career.

Less than 10 minutes later, the 2012 IWLCA Attacker of the Year tore her ACL. She was riding Big Red midfielder Maddie Kiep on a clear when her left knee gave out and she tumbled to the turf along the sideline in the Carrier Dome. She is unlikely to return to play before the end of the season.

"It's such a tough injury, and most of us have been out at one point and it's really frustrating as a player not to be able to play," junior attacker Alyssa Murray said. "We really want to play for Michelle and everyone's doing a really good job of stepping up."

The loss of Tumolo is difficult to calculate for the Orange. At the time of her injury, Tumolo was the team's assist leader and No. 2 in overall points. She attracts faceguards from opposing teams' top defenders. She's the emotional heart of the team, a big-game player who wants the ball in her stick in must-win situations. Those are handy qualities for a team facing both No. 12 Loyola and No. 8 Georgetown on the road this weekend, and the Big East and NCAA tournaments in the near future.

"I don't think we're going to be able to replace Michelle, but we're finding other people's strengths," Murray said.

The Syracuse bench is deep. Murray is the top scorer with 70 points (45g, 23a), and freshman attacker Kayla Treanor has surpassed Tumolo for the No. 2 spot with 52 points (38g, 14a). Nine of Treanor's points came in the last two games, in which Syracuse defeated Notre Dame 11-8, and Marquette 18-6.

There are six players on the team with double-digit goals besides the Murray-Tumolo-Treanor trio. The Orange has shooters aplenty, and midfielders Amy Cross, Bridget Daley and Erica Bodt are expected to step up their offensive play. What the team needs in Tumolo's absence is a feeder. That role will be divided among Murray, Kempney and sophomore attacker Devon Collins.

"We had extra players in that position so we're lucky in that sense. We had players with a lot of game experience to step in," Syracuse coach Gary Gait said.

Collins got her second start of the year against the Irish, and her first since the season opener against Jacksonville. (Tumolo was ineligible for that game after receiving a red card in the 2012 NCAA championship game.) Collins started 21 of 23 games her freshman year, but lost her starting spot to Treanor in 2013. With Tumolo out, Collins is back. She had only a single shot and no points in the Notre Dame game, and in general the Syracuse offense struggled to find its rhythm, scoring its 11 goals on 34 shots. But the unit endured against Irish goalie Ellie Hilling (11 saves), and the team scored 18 points from 12 players against Marquette two days later.

"We were just throwing in right away and had to get used to it, and used to staying calm," Collins said. "We don't have to make something out of every time we touch the ball."

Murray is confident the new-look attack has found its stride.

"It's tough to come in and start scoring boatloads of goals if they're not comfortable [in new positions]," Murray said. "Even if the shots weren't falling, they'll be able to work stuff out."

There's also the element of surprise. A late-season lineup change can be tough on opponents, too.

"I'm no defensive specialist, but I'm sure the first person on the scouting report is Michelle Tumolo," Collins said. "I think it's going to be hard for [opponents] because we have such a deep roster. Usually Michelle is our quarterback, and [now] we have to rely on other people, and make things happen more unexpectedly. It's not as predictable as before."

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