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One of the most hopeful seasons in the history of the Loyola Maryland women’s lacrosse program began with one of its most lopsided setbacks.
Ranked No. 5 in the Inside Lacrosse poll and widely considered one of several contenders for the NCAA Division I championship, the Greyhounds were humbled, 18-6, by No. 4 Syracuse on Saturday afternoon in the season opener for both sides at the Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore.
The loss was the biggest for the program since Jen Adams succeeded Kerri O’Day as head coach before the 2009 season. The last time Loyola had dropped a game by such a wide margin was O’Day’s final game in that role on May 3, 2008 when Maryland waltzed to a 20-4 trouncing.
It was also the Greyhounds’ worst loss to the Orange since a 21-6 demolition on April 21, 2007.
Adams was candid about the entire team’s performance.
“We got outplayed, we got out-coached today,” she said. “It was an opportunity to get out on the field and kind of give the 2021 season a test run and I thought Syracuse came firing on all cylinders, and we just didn’t have the answers. I think for us, that means we’ve got some homework to do. We’ve got to hit the drawing board, and we have to turn this around very quickly because we play a tough Towson side on Wednesday. Fortunately, we can have a short-term memory here and try to rebound and bounce back. But I thought Syracuse came out ready to play, and unfortunately, it was not our day today.”
Both teams had waited at least 350 days for Saturday’s game after the 2020 season was cut short March 12 by the coronavirus pandemic. But the Greyhounds (0-1) looked flat-footed and two steps behind early and throughout the game.
Loyola particularly struggled to accomplish any kind of rhythm against an Orange defense that pressured the Greyhounds’ ball carriers relentlessly. Syracuse coach Gary Gait said the strategy involved having one defender guide a Loyola player into a zone where another defender was waiting for a double team, but releasing that player once she was no longer a danger.
“I think they put the ball carrier under a lot of pressure and made it tough to find the open players,” Adams acknowledged. “We’re a very creative side, but we’re very selfless with the ball, and I think they did a great job of just rattling us, I guess, and making that tough. I give them a ton of credit for that. We did prepare, we scouted well with drills and things like that to prepare the team in practice, but getting into a game, we haven’t simulated, and we’ve had no fall games like the rest of the teams in the country.”
The Orange’s tactics worked. In the first half, the Greyhounds had more giveaways (10) than shots (six). They finished the game with 15 turnovers and 13 shots.
“It was definitely a lot of pressure, which we were expecting,” said Loyola senior midfielder Sam Fiedler, a Reisterstown resident and Garrison Forest graduate who scored a team-high three goals. “We didn’t get completely settled into our offense. So that was a little different from what we’re used to. We knew it was coming. It just didn’t end up flowing well.”
Syracuse’s defense also kept Loyola senior attacker Livy Rosenzweig off-balance. The program’s all-time second-leading producer in assists (134) and eighth-leading producer in points (245) had zero points, zero shots and two turnovers in the first half.
Rosenzweig did get two assists in the second half, but she and her teammates on the offensive end were limited to their lowest output since May 7, 2017 in a 15-5 setback to Navy. Much of that had to do with a returning Orange defense of graduate students Kerry Defliese and Ella Simkins, senior Allyson Trice and junior Sarah Cooper (Notre Dame Prep) that combined for five caused turnovers and eight ground balls on Saturday.
“They were just hitting their rhythm last year, and they’re continuing to build their chemistry,” Gait said. “We’re hoping that we’ll see this type of defense every game where it’s pure communication, hustle and effort that’s going to make it tough to score.”
Junior attacker Megan Carney paced Syracuse (1-0) with three goals and three assists. Graduate student attacker Emily Hawryschuk added four goals and one assist, and junior attacker Meaghan Tyrrell chipped in three goals and two assists.
As demoralizing as Saturday’s outcome may be, both Fiedler and Adams remained optimistic about how the rest of the season could unfold.
“It’s definitely not the showing that we wanted to come out and do, but we’re still just as happy to be out on the field,” Fiedler said. “We just know that this isn’t our only game this season. We’re just going to keep working hard for the next opportunity that we get.”
Added Adams: “We don’t shy away from it. Our players will be the first to say it, our coaches will be the first to step up and say, ‘We didn’t get it right on a lot of levels.’ There’s a lot we need to work on. We need to hit the drawing board, but we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. That talented team is still in there. We just didn’t see it enough to shine today, and we’ll be back. I’m very confident in that and that we’ll be prepared to play the remainder of our season and attempt to get a little bit better every single time we take the field.”