How Syracuse’s Emily Hawryschuk got back to being herself on the lacrosse field
How Emily Hawryschuk got back to being herself on the lacrosse field
Emily Hawryschuk had never missed a game or even a practice throughout her Syracuse lacrosse career. Then, during a practice just one game into the 2021 season, she suffered an ACL tear. Her perspective as an athlete would never be the same.
“Last year was a learning experience,” Hawryschuk said. “When you go through an injury it’s a process, and you grow a lot mentally and physically.”
It was hardly Hawryschuk’s first bout with adversity. The program’s second-leading goal scorer was off to a Tewaaraton Award-caliber start in her eight-game 2020 season before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped away sports competition nationwide. But watching her team play from the sidelines was something she never imagined she would experience.
“You learn an entirely new perspective of the game seeing it as opposed to playing it,” she said, looking back on her team’s 2021 run to the national title game. “To have the opportunity to stand on the sideline and watch coach [Gary] Gait coach, he taught me a lot. I’m thankful for that experience.”
It also helped to have a pair of teammates going through the same rehab process.
“Between [Megan Carney] and Vanessa Costantino, to have someone with you going through the process, as horrible as it sounds, we did find a lot of gratitude in being able to go through that process together,” Hawryschuk said. “Talking about how the physical therapy session went, giving each other a hug on the sideline when we know that we want to be out there playing so bad — it’s just having a buddy with you, and a special bond was created through that.”
Carney, who suffered her injury near the end of the 2021 regular season, said Hawryschuk was instrumental in her ability to process what happened and begin going through her own recovery.
“It’s just nice to have that person where I could ask a million questions about the entire thing,” Carney said. “Just having that person to lean on, push each other each day to get better and come back out here together to play and fight for that same goal.”
When Gait accepted the men’s coaching job at Syracuse in June, Hawryschuk was still early in the rehab process. Kayla Treanor took over and coached through the fall with her two-time All-American attacker still reduced to a cheerleader.
“She didn’t really have the whole fall to integrate back in,” Treanor said. “It’s a hard injury to come back from and it takes people different amounts of time.”
Hawryschuk was cleared for full-contact practice just as the team headed home for winter break. Once the team began practice in mid-January, it was a sprint to get ready for the start of the regular season.
With so much prep work to take care of, Hawryschuk found herself surprised by the weight of the emotion she felt when the moment finally arrived to take the field for the team’s Feb. 11 opener against Stanford.
“Before that first game, I was just overwhelmed with gratitude,” she said. “It was emotion that I had never really dealt with before. I think I failed to harness that in the way that my performance was.”
Hawryschuk scored just five goals in the team’s first three games, well below her usual scoring standards.
In the 2020 season, the then-senior had racked up 39 goals through eight contests, easily pacing herself to break the program single-season record of 79, held by Treanor herself. She wasn’t playing poorly, but she wasn’t the old Emily Hawryschuk.
Against Notre Dame, though, something clicked. Hawryschuk tied for the team lead with four goals, scoring on a mixture of close quarter maneuvers and eight-meter missiles. Then Tuesday against Northwestern, though the Orange suffered their first loss of the season, she was fully Emily Hawryschuk again. Her six goals and three assists combined to set a career-high for points in a game.
Hawryschuk attributed a large portion of her early-season adjustments to her coaches, both current and past.
“My coaches helped me a lot within the last week,” she said. “I even talked to coach Gait a couple times, and [I’ve] just been able to calm the mind down and be back to performing.”
The change has been noticeable, to coaches and teammates alike.
“She’s getting more comfortable in her body every day,” Treanor said. “She looks a lot faster and more confident. Every game she’s getting better and better. It’s fun to watch.”
Carney, going through her own reintroduction, perhaps uniquely appreciates the difficulty Hawryschuk had acclimating herself to the flow of the action.
“She’s just getting more comfortable, which will come as time goes on,” Carney said. “She’s doing awesome and it’s just really good to see her back out there dominating.”
Now back to her usual scoring pace, Hawryschuk can get back to chasing down history. With twelve games remaining in the regular season, she sits just 36 goals shy of Treanor’s career record of 260.
And of course, the Orange are chasing a national title, which escaped them so narrowly a year ago. But the past two years have given Hawryschuk perspective on how lucky she is just to put on a Syracuse uniform.
“I’m a lot older,” she laughed. “But I’m still having fun, I’m loving the game and I’m loving playing with the block ‘S’ on my chest.”