Anne Photograp News 2024

SU’s big-game experience has prepared it to win 1st national title

SU’s big-game experience has prepared it to win 1st national title

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Failing to get over the postseason hump is a common phenomenon in sports.

In the early 90s, the Buffalo Bills consistently won the AFC but lost four straight Super Bowls. Similarly, the Indiana Pacers made the NBA playoffs 16 times in 17 seasons yet never won a ring.

Then there are teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kansas City Chiefs. Both dominated their divisions in the mid-2010s before faltering in the postseason. But recently both broke their championship droughts with the Dodgers winning the World Series in 2020 and Kansas City claiming three Super Bowls since 2019.

No. 3 Syracuse women’s lacrosse currently sits with Bills Mafia and the Hoosier State. In its first 25 years, SU has made the NCAA Tournament 20 times, reaching at least the quarterfinals in 13. Yet, it hasn’t captured the elusive national championship. Though in 2024, after winning their first-ever ACC regular-season title and facing the toughest strength of schedule in the country, according to Lacrosse Reference, the Orange are more prepared than ever to reach the mountaintop at last in the postseason.

In Kayla Treanor’s second season at the helm in 2023, SU fell in the Final Four to Boston College. The year prior, the Orange reached the quarterfinals but were pummeled by Northwestern. And in 2021, under current Syracuse men’s lacrosse head coach Gary Gait, SU lost in the national championship.

It’s been a common theme for the Orange. Go deep and fall at the doorstep.

But this season, Syracuse has faced a gauntlet of a schedule. Last year was similar when it finished the regular season 15-1 and 4-1 against top-five teams. Though the Orange didn’t know how to deal with adversity when it mattered most.

That changed in 2024, as Syracuse has faced 11 ranked teams and nine in the top 10.

“We definitely play the toughest schedule in the country and that is by design,” Treanor said on March 19 after SU’s win over UAlbany. “Because our ultimate goal is to win a national championship and I’m not sure how you do that if you’re not playing the best teams.”

SU started off playing the reigning national champions, No. 1 Northwestern. The Orange quickly found themselves behind 8-2 and attempted to claw back but fell short, dropping the game 18-15.

Though how many teams would’ve beaten the Wildcats at that point? Northwestern lost just one game in 2023 and earned the top seed in the NCAA Tournament. It was a difficult loss, but not a defining one.

Following a win against Army, Syracuse tripped up again. An overtime defeat to Maryland gave it a second loss in three games. Instead of panicking, Treanor knew the experiences would be beneficial.

“We had an overtime game, a game where we were down and a game where we were up by a lot,” Treanor said on Feb. 20. “So we’ve had a lot of different game experiences, in only three games. For us, we just want to use this as learning and growth.”

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The Orange then rattled off two ACC wins, including a close victory over then-No. 2 Notre-Dame. Was Syracuse back to elite status? Not quite.

In a nonconference game versus then-No. 12 Stony Brook SU’s early season struggles culminated in an upset overtime defeat at the hands of the Seawolves. Head coach Joe Spallina and multiple Stony Brook players exuded confidence postgame.

Minutes later, Emma Ward and Olivia Adamson could barely get words out. It was clear frustration mixed with shock after three losses in six games. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

It was a gut punch but another learning point. Treanor says after that game, the team looked itself in the mirror and faced reality.

“We weren’t playing the way that we wanted to,” Treanor said. “We played really undisciplined in that game. We were careless, we made a lot of mistakes and everyone had to take ownership of it. Everybody had to step up and play better because we knew what our potential could be.”

Syracuse responded by piling up nine straight wins. It handed then-No. 9 North Carolina its worst loss ever, came back from a four-goal deficit against then-No. 9 Virginia and took care of then-No. 7 Loyola.

Syracuse used its experiences in adverse situations to turn it around. As it approaches the NCAA Tournament, SU will do the same.

On April 18, Syracuse’s winning streak ended in an overtime loss to then-No. 6 Boston College. But SU learned from that defeat and dominated Louisville and Virginia to open the ACC Tournament. A title game loss to Boston College hampered its success in Charlotte, yet SU has another opportunity to bounce back.

“My hope would be that (the loss) fuels our team and gives us motivation going into the NCAA Tournament,” Treanor said after the loss to BC.

Following a first-round bye, Syracuse could match up with Stony Brook again. While the Seawolves got the best of it in the first rendition, this is a different SU team.

A potential quarterfinal matchup against Yale awaits, but the Bulldogs have far less experience, facing just three top-10 opponents. If the Orange were to advance to the Final Four, a trilogy with Boston College looms. Surely they wouldn’t lose to the same team three times in one season, right?

Yes, the Eagles have been SU’s kryptonite, but Syracuse is a complete team with strength on the draw control, scoring depth and a lockdown zone defense. It’s not ridiculous to predict Syracuse to beat BC at last.

The Orange knows how to battle back when needed. They’ve played in overtime games. They’ve had commanding wins over top-10 teams. They’ve dropped just two games in regulation all season. When it matters most, they need to put it all together and finish the job.

“We want to be playing our best lacrosse now, not in the beginning of the season,” Treanor said.

As key figures like draw specialist Kate Mashewske, attack Emma Tyrrell and goalie Delaney Sweitzer all embark on their final postseason runs with Syracuse, this is the SU team that can finally get over the hump like the Dodgers and Chiefs.

Aiden Stepansky is an Assistant Sports Editor for The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at @[email protected] or on X @AidenStepansky.