No. 16 Syracuse’s shortcomings exposed in 20-11 blowout loss to No. 5 North Carolina

first_imgAll game a North Carolina ball-handler from behind the cage baited defenders and waited for SU to step towards the ball, which allowed another attacker to leak behind the fooled defenders, awaiting a pass. More often than not, the shooter would slide the ball past Goldstock and kickstart a celebration. Four of UNC’s eight first-half scores came from a variation of that same play.“We started in man-to-man,” Gait said, “that didn’t go well. Then we went to backer (defense), then we went back to man-to-man, then we went backer. We weren’t putting it all together, and then we were scrambling.”The few times that Syracuse did snuff out North Carolina’s designed plays, the visitor’s individual skill shone through. Multiple times, a UNC player called out “iso” from the sideline, and a dodger set up a one-on-one matchup. All season long, SU has accepted these matchups. The Tar Heels used the Orange’s confidence to set up its downfall.In the first half, Kerry Defliese was all that stood between Bill and the goal. Bill, who had scored eight goals all season, deked SU’s top-defender with a head fake and beat Goldstock with ease. Goldstock faced doorstep shots often and used her eight saves to keep the game close going into the half.“We played a lot of defense,” Goldstock said. “I think if you’re judging us on our ‘D’ in the beginning, I think we played great. But it’s hard to stay focused for the whole 60.”The same formula — a cutting attack that dash towards the crease, corral a pass and finish — sparked the Tar Heels’ game-defining run. After Emily Hawryschuk cut the deficit to two in the second half, UNC exploded, winning three draws and scoring thrice over a 1:33 span.“We weren’t making the plays,” Gait said. “We were allowing them to get second opportunities, we were making it tough on our defense.”Gait entered the game believing that SU’s losses were a product of mental and physical fatigue. Seven days in-between games were supposed to serve as a palate cleanser, and hopefully, lead to Syracuse’s first conference win. It was supposed to make this matchup different.It didn’t.When the final air horn mercifully ended the blowout, and Gait led his team through the Carrier Dome’s tunnels, it was clear that SU’s struggles run far deeper.“I thought we had a solid plan,” Gait said, “we just didn’t execute it. We didn’t come out energized and fired up. I think we got down and it was more of a mental thing than anything else. When your head’s not in the game, your body doesn’t follow. I don’t know why.” Comments Asa Goldstock’s eyes were glued to the scoreboard above her cage, displaying a replay of North Carolina’s 13th goal. Goldstock tried to rationalize the score. She tried to think of a solution, but couldn’t. Behind her, a group of Syracuse defenders huddled and tried to solve North Carolina’s scheme, which led it to a five-goal second-half lead. They didn’t have answers either.“It’s hard to adapt,” Goldstock said. “… They kept dodging and feeding really quick.”No. 16 Syracuse (8-7, 0-5 Atlantic Coast) searched for the answers all game that it never found in No. 5 North Carolina’s (10-3, 5-1) 20-11 drubbing in the Carrier Dome. The Tar Heels exploited the Orange’s flaws while unearthing others, too. SU deployed different defensive schemes, forced unlikely contributors to step up, but the visitors forcefully demonstrated the disparity between the two teams that represent the best, and worst, that the ACC has to offer.SU’s ACC struggles have been represented in a variety of ways. Virginia bested SU in a shootout on Mar. 4. The No. 1 recruit in the country propelled Notre Dame to an overtime victory on Mar. 24. Duke took advantage of a tired Orange unit on Mar. 31. Virginia Tech was the benefactor of Syracuse’s mistakes in a double-overtime thriller on Apr. 7. Saturday’s matchup against North Carolina was supposed to be different. Syracuse had a week to rest, a week to strategize, but none of it mattered.SU slipped further into the ACC’s basement, with only two games left — one against No. 2 Boston College — to earn a conference victory before the ACC tournament.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“We’ve been rushed all year,” SU head coach Gary Gait said. “Today was tough. We had that time to prepare. We thought we were ready, focused. I thought we just came out flat. Maybe it’s been a long season, a long grind, we didn’t show up today and deliver our best game, our best performance. I think we got work to do.”Syracuse players said they weren’t surprised by the Tar Heels’ game plan, yet that didn’t help stop it. UNC stayed consistent, using a balance of its speed and shooting to pick apart Syracuse’s usually-stout man-to-man defense. Players like Marie McCool (five goals), Kara Klages (five goals) and Maggie Bill (four goals) found themselves within a few yards of the cage and peppered the Orange goalies with shots.In the game’s first possession, UNC’s Ela Hazar found Bill on a give-and-go from behind the cage and watched the first of UNC’s eight first-half goals. It was a sign of things to come.More Coverage:No. 16 Syracuse’s offense fails to keep pace with No. 5 North Carolina in 20-11 lossGallery: No. 16 Syracuse crushed by No. 5 North Carolina, 20-11 Published on April 14, 2018 at 2:35 pm Contact Nick: [email protected] | @nick_a_alvarezcenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img