Syracuse women’s lacrosse still thinks they can win a national championship
SU women’s lacrosse still thinks they can win a national championship
Of the eight teams that earned a national seed in this year’s NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Tournament, only one lost in the first round of their conference tournament.
And only one is playing its opening round on the road.
If you guessed that both of those statements apply to Syracuse, feel free to pat yourself on the back. The Orange will play their first game since their April 29 loss to Virginia in the first round of the ACC Tournament when they travel to Princeton Friday to take on Fairfield in the round of 32.
But despite the program’s first back-to-back losses since 2018 and the loss of home-field advantage, this Syracuse team still thinks it can win the school’s first national championship.
“Absolutely,” said sixth-year attacker Emily Hawryschuk without hesitation when asked if this was her team’s “year.” “I still don’t think that we’ve put together a full 60-minute game – so if we have to hold out on that game until Memorial Day weekend, that’s when we’ll do it.”
Though players and coaches say they are prepared to do it all on the road, it’s still an unfortunate situation for the Orange.
A press release Sunday night confirmed the team was unable to host this year’s first round due to a lack of hotel space in Syracuse, during a week that concurs with graduation in the Carrier Dome. The Orange hosted last year’s first round at SU Soccer Stadium, but there was no in-person graduation ceremony due to COVID-19 precautions.
“It’s definitely disappointing, you want to be able to play at home,” coach Kayla Treanor said. “But that’s why we play the schedule that we do, we play a lot of top opponents on the road so that come tournament time, we’re ready if we have to travel.”
The last two times Syracuse played away from the Dome, however, they came up short. The team lost at defending national champion Boston College on April 22, then were bounced from the ACC Tournament a week later by underdog Virginia.
Because of the losing streak, the lack of home field and the injuries that have mounted throughout the season, the Orange are a trendy upset pick among national lacrosse predictors. But the team believes their most recent defeat will help them in the win-or-go-home games.
“As much as I hate to lose, I think it really has benefitted us,” senior defender Sarah Cooper said. “We’ve had more time to prepare than most teams – so we’ve [gone] back to the basics and honed in on what we really need to focus on.”
Hawryschuk echoed her fellow captain and said her team’s five losses throughout the season have helped them learn what they need to improve upon heading into the tournament.
“After we lose, we know that we didn’t put together our best game,” Hawryschuk said. “If anything, I think that’s a positive thing, knowing that we have so much more potential, and we just have to tap in.”
Much of that potential comes with experience. Syracuse went all the way to the national title game a year ago, defeating then-unbeaten Northwestern in the semifinals to do so. With that same Northwestern team and undefeated top-seed North Carolina standing in their path to this year’s final, it helps to have a group of veterans that have been there before.
“We know we can make it; we know we can win,” Cooper said. “Our previous successes just give us momentum to keep going and know we can do it.”
Though she is a first-year head coach, Treanor brings unique expertise of her own. As an assistant last season at Boston College, Treanor hoisted a national championship trophy, denying the Orange their first title in program history.
Back at her alma mater and looking for the same result in 2021, Treanor feels no major differences from her previous pre-tournament emotions as a player and assistant.
“It’s still just lacrosse, just another game, it’s just more pressure,” Treanor said. “I think that’s what we’re trying to get our athletes to do—not shy away from the pressure, enjoy the moment, and it’s exciting.”
The excitement begins Friday when the Orange will take to the field at Class of 1952 Stadium at 4 p.m. to face off against MAAC champions Fairfield. If they defeat the Stags, they will play the winner of UMass and host Princeton on Sunday.
It will take one more win than it would have a year ago, but the slate is clean. Five victories and the Orange will raise the first-ever women’s lacrosse championship banner to the Carrier Dome rafters.
“I think we have a great group of girls that are really bonded,” Treanor said. “They’re in a great position to win a lot of games.”
And if the Orange do win two games this weekend, it will serve as a reminder to the rest of the nation: no matter how vulnerable they might appear at any given moment, you can never count out Syracuse women’s lacrosse.