As the Orange deficit increased, the energy slowly drained out of the Carrier Dome. There were no more fans cheering, no more teammates encouraging, and the style of play turned sluggish as No. 1 seeded Syracuse struggled from the start, losing to Loyola, 13-7 in the Big East championship game on Saturday.
“Well, that didn’t quite go as planned,” Syracuse head coach Gary Gait said bluntly after the game.
After knotting the score at three, Loyola took full control of the game, scoring 10 of the next 11 goals and stretching the lead to as large as nine. During the run, the Orange were continually stifled by the hard-nosed Greyhounds defense. Loyola senior goalie Kerry Stoothoff anchored the LU defense with 11 saves, keeping the Orange off the scoreboard for over fifteen minutes of play during the Loyola run.
“Mentally we struggled with the style of goalie that comes out to the top of the crease and she [Stoothoff] had an outstanding game,” Gait said.
He added, “she was in our head. Players were not confident taking the shots.”
First team All-Big East players Michelle Tumolo and Alyssa Murray scored two goals apiece for the Orange. Tumolo tallied seven shots but despite having six shots on goal, the Big East Attack Player of the Year was only able to get past Stoothoff twice.
It was the second consecutive game that the Orange scored just seven goals, an underwhelming performance by a potent offense. Syracuse wasn’t able to move the ball effectively, tallying just one assist.
Although the SU offense is typically more high-powered, it’s not immune to rough days in the office against the Loyola defense, as was seen in the previous matchup when Stoothoff finished with 16 saves. Gait wasn’t pleased with his team's offensive effort.
“We didn’t make the adjustments we were talking about," he said. "Throwing fakes, taking your time on your shots and not just throwing it at the goal."
He added, “it didn’t look like a Big East undefeated team out there.”
With the loss, the Orange’s 15-game win streak ends. However, Gait said there are lessons to be taken from the loss.
“You can be No. 1 and undefeated and all that, but you still have to show up to play and execute and it’s a lesson we’ll take moving forward and we’ll hopefully learn from it,” Gait said.
After the Loyola run that put the game at 13-4, the Orange scored three consecutive goals. It was not enough, though. As the last couple seconds ticked off the clock, the Loyola players cheered while the SU squad walked off the field, disappointed.
But the Orange season is not over yet. As the second-ranked team in the country, Syracuse will receive an at-large berth in the sixteen team NCAA tournament field. The selection show is tomorrow.
“The committee is going to put you where you want and what makes sense … they’ll put us where they want us and who knows what they think of the Big East but we’ll find out,” Gait said.