February 23, 2014

Syracuse Wins ACC Debut on Road at Virginia

by Drew Goodman | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Sophomore sensation Kayla Treanor scored five goals as Syracuse won its ACC opener on the road at Virginia on Sunday afternoon.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Dating back to his playing days as a member of the Syracuse men's team, Orange women's head coach Gary Gait has always favored the run-and-gun style of lacrosse.

As was the case with Gait's three national title teams in the late 1980s, the 2014 Orange have stormed out of the gate winning their first three games by a combined score of 64-13.

Sunday afternoon represented the dawn of a new era in Syracuse women's lacrosse, as the five-time Big East Champions made its long awaited Atlantic Coast Conference debut, at Virginia.

Like the Orange's opening three opponents, the Cavaliers could not slow the visitors down, falling to Syracuse 18-14 to drop to 1-3 on the season.

"We like to open up the field and go run and go play," Gait said. "Today we wanted to get out there and get up and down the field. I thought the effort was there from the beginning and we took advantage of the opportunities that we got."

Two Syracuse runs in the first half set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.

After Virginia netted the opening goal of the game, Devon Collins sparked a 3-0 run by scoring the first of her four goals to put the Orange ahead by two. Later in the half, following back-to-back scores by the Cavaliers, Syracuse methodically reeled off four straight goals in just over four minutes to build a 10-5 lead with 12 minutes to play in the first half.

Virginia held a 19-15 draw control advantage, but when Syracuse gained possession, it often led to a transition goal for the Orange.

Sophomore Kayla Treanor was the catalyst on offense for Syracuse, tallying seven points and five goals on the afternoon. Treanor did most of her damage in the second half, crushing Virginia's spirit on several occasions, as the Cavaliers attempted to get back into the game.

The Niskayuna, N.Y. native put an end to a 4-1 UVa scoring run when she found the back of the cage to put Syracuse ahead 14-11 with 20:39 to play in the second half. After the Cavaliers again pulled to within two just two minutes later, Treanor faked Virginia goalie Liz Colgan and scored unassisted off of a beautiful fake spin move. Treanor's acrobatic score was a crushing blow for UVa, as the Orange once again turned up the heat to build a six-goal advantage.

"Virginia is a good team and they were not going to go away," Treanor said. "We really like to play up tempo and a fast game, and we just had to keep our composure in the second half and keep the momentum our way."

As a team, Syracuse only outshot Virginia by just two, (34-32), but goalkeeper, Kelsey Richardson helped keep the Cavalier offense in check. Richardson started the game, but split time in the second half with Alyssa Costantino. After a brief hiatus, Richardson re-entered the contest with nearly 20 left minutes in regulation, after the resurgent Wahoos netted four goals out of the gate. Richardson hunkered down in the cage and recorded seven saves, including turning back four free position opportunities for Virginia.

"She caused some turnovers and intercepted a few big passes in front of the cage," Gait said of his junior goalkeeper. "She came back in after halftime and made some big plays when we needed them."

Freshman Taylor Poplawski turned a big-time performance on the largest stage of her young career, scoring two goals during the run at the end of the first half. Alyssa Murray and Amy Cross used their elite speed to score two goals a piece as well. Kailah Kempney was a terrific facilitator on offense, dishing out five assists on the afternoon. The Orange displayed incredible ball movement throughout the game, as 12 of their 18 goals were assisted.

Virginia fell despite a great effort from Courtney Swan, who finished with six points and led the Cavaliers with four goals. Swan was all over the field, as the junior helped Virginia win the draw control, and often facilitated the Cavaliers offense from the top of the key.

UVa got a nice lift from Mary Alati as well, who started her first career game in the midfield. Atlati made her presence felt right out of the gate, scoring the first goal of the afternoon. She finished the day with two goals and one assist and could have easily had one or two more scores. Alati was placed into the lineup for her ability to get down field to counter the many offensive weapons for Syracuse.

"We really split our middie lines up a little bit just to keep Morgan [Stephens] and Maddy [Keeshan] on the field," Virginia coach Julie Myers said. "We needed to come up with another middie. Mary did a great job and she really took advantage or her opportunity. It's really nice to see someone working hard and that has been waiting in the wings a little bit. That was a huge bright spot for us today."

Keeshan netted a hat trick for the Cavaliers, including the last two goals of the afternoon. Casey Bocklet and Ashlee Warner each turned in two goals for UVa.

Virginia will host Penn State next weekend, while the Orange will continue its inaugural tour of the ACC on Wednesday, at Boston College.

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