How success at the draw will dictate the Syracuse women’s lacrosse season
Championship hopes hinge on draw controls for women's lacrosse
Syracuse women’s lacrosse boasts one of the most star-studded rosters in America. The team currently has six players on the Tewaaraton Watch List — including first-round addition midfielder Sam Swart — four returning All-Americans and an attack featuring some of the biggest names in collegiate lacrosse.
If how the season has played out so far is any indication, the success of this team may boil down to three players — but perhaps not be the first three that come to mind.
“I think Kate Mashewske is a really special player,” coach Kayla Treanor said during her press conference Thursday. “She has a great desire to win and she plays with a killer instinct.”
After every goal scored, Mashewske, a junior from Henrietta, New York, stands at the center of attention. Tyrrell and Cooper flank her at the edges of the draw circle. Mashewske tries everything she can to get the ball out of her opponent’s stick, as her teammates battle for positioning to jump on any loose ball.
“You try to build momentum, so if we just scored, that’s the most important draw,” Mashewske said. “I go into every draw thinking that way because if we can get the possession, that’s one less defensive set we have to play.”
As Mashewske and Syracuse know, draws play an outsized role in determining the outcome of any given contest. The top ten teams in the NCAA in draw control percentage this season currently possess a combined record of 59-24. The Orange currently sit 21st in that metric, and their game-to-game performance fluctuates.
During their overtime loss at Northwestern, SU’s first defeat of the season, the Orange lost 21 of 35 draws. Yet, while posting the same draw control percentage against Duke, they emerged with an 18-16 victory. In the snowy win over Virginia, the Orange found slightly better footing as Mashewske and the rest of the draw unit tied the Cavaliers 17-17 on draws.
But something clicked in the second half of the Florida game, hidden amid the worst SU performance thus far in 2022. The team won nine of the game’s final 10 draws, with Mashewske finding a groove she hadn’t previously all season.
“I think [Kate] was one of the players in the Florida game who responded and turned it on when the team needed it,” Treanor said. “She’s got to do that for the whole game – but I think she knows that and I think she learned.”
The next game, facing a red-hot Virginia Tech team, Mashewske put on a draw clinic. The Orange won 20 of 26 draws as a team, and Mashewske controlled a season-high 11 of them herself. Able to possess the ball for the vast majority of the game, the offense dominated the 24th-ranked Hokies. Syracuse built a nine-goal lead by halftime and cruised to a 17-5 victory.
“She definitely is way more confident than I thought she was coming into the season,” Tyrrell said of Mashewske. “You can just tell she’s so locked in and focused that we trust everything she’s going to do.”
It’s a confidence Mashewske has had to build over time, as throughout her Syracuse career, she’s become more accustomed to her position as a draw specialist.
As a freshman, Mashewske jockeyed for playing time at both the midfield and draw positions. Her season was cut short after just five appearances by the COVID-19 pandemic, at which point she had recorded 11 draw controls.
When Emily Hawryschuk tore her ACL at the beginning of the 2021 season, Mashewske was thrust into the role of SU’s primary draw specialist.
She had a strong season, particularly during a week against No. 4 Notre Dame when she controlled 25 draws in two games and took home US Lacrosse Player of the Week honors.
Losing All-American Ella Simkins to graduation, however, seemed to affect the draw unit early in 2022.
“I think it’s definitely been a work in progress,” Mashewske said “Sarah Cooper wasn’t starting on the circle with us at the end of last year, so it took us a game or two. But I think right now the three of us are working well together.”
Becoming a draw specialist meant accepting one very specific duty, rather than contributing to the entire game flow, as Mashewske did her entire career as a midfielder. It’s a challenge she embraced from the jump.
“I just think it’s a battle,” she said. “We go into every game as a chess match. It’s like a three-on-three and whoever gets it before the possession, everyone else is released, so it’s just chemistry.”
Tyrrell, who is involved in almost every moment of action throughout the game, says the draw takes on a special significance for her as well.
“It’s a lot more pressure because the draw dictates the way the game goes,” Tyrrell said. “It’s really fun to win it and go down and score.”
As the season goes on, the Orange will face off against many of the top offensive players in the nation, such as Boston College’s Charlotte North and North Carolina’s Jamie Ortega. If the Orange want to fulfill their goal of becoming national champions, their best hope is to keep the ball out of the sticks of those elite players.
Although she likely won’t attempt a shot all season, the Orange understand the importance of having Mashewske on their roster.
Come the final weekend of May, she just might be the key to hoisting a trophy in Baltimore, Maryland.