Dual shutouts keep SU’s postseason hopes alive

September 17, 2020

first_imgIf defense wins championships, Syracuse would be well on its way to clinching a postseason berth. But heading into the final week of the regular season, defense alone has not been enough for the Orange to solidify a spot in the playoffs. After 200 consecutive minutes of holding opponents goalless over the weekend, the SU defense is looking for a little help. SU has scored just two goals in its last four games, making it difficult to rise in the Big East standings. ‘It’s great to have two shutouts back to back,’ head coach Phil Wheddon said. ‘It would be even better to have two wins. I thought we created some quality goal-scoring opportunities. … We have to put these away. And obviously it’s made our job a little more difficult.’ Elation turned to apprehension this weekend after Syracuse reinforced and then nearly lost control of its playoff hopes in games against Rutgers (8-8-1, 3-5-1) and Seton Hall (6-9-1, 2-6-1). Friday night against the Scarlet Knights, sophomore midfielder Tina Romagnuolo kicked in a game winner with 3:37 to play, leading to a 1-0 win. Sunday afternoon, the SU defense continued to come up with timely stops, but the Orange was unable to put one through after double overtime with Seton Hall. SU tied the Pirates 0-0. Of the 26 total chances on the weekend by Seton Hall and Rutgers, none made it to the back of the net.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text Now SU (6-7-5, 3-4-2) is currently tied for fifth in the American Division with 11 points. The top five teams in each division qualify for the conference tournament. ‘Coming into today, I think we were a little bit more tired,’ midfielder Alyscha Mottershead said. ‘We had a little bit of a minor lapse after a really good start. And that led to a few frantic passes in the second half. Coming out in the second half, I thought our backline was again very organized. And that made the rest of the team’s job a lot easier.’ Sunday’s second-half backline consisted of Casey Ramirez, Jackie Moriarty, Rachel Blum and Cecilia Borgstrom. As the regular season has progressed, and now as it begins to close, the Syracuse defenders have become more efficient in holding down opposing offenses. ‘I think together, as the four of us, we switch people in and out, but I know Rachel, Jackie and I were finally clicking, and we’re talking,’ Ramirez said. ‘The two in the middle are working really well together. One drops, one stays. I think it’s just chemistry more than anything.’ The question now becomes whether or not Syracuse has enough time to put its burgeoning defensive chemistry to good use. And hopefully, turn it into some offense. The flipside of playing great defense is the tendency to rely too heavily on it. It took SU 86 minutes to score on Friday night, and the Orange has managed just three scores since the calendar turned to October. Still, over the past three games, Syracuse has played some of its strongest defensive soccer of the season, highlighted by Friday night’s thriller in the rain. But now Syracuse has concluded its final homestand of the year and will likely need a win or a tie against both USF and Marquette on the road next week to keep pace. ‘We’re still at the bottom of the top five,’ Mottershead said. ‘It puts a lot of pressure on us, still. Getting to the top five is great, but the season’s not over yet, and we have to continue to win and go into every game like it’s a playoff game from here on out.’ But playing great defense has already afforded SU the opportunity to win games late in true playoff fashion. After all, Romagnuolo would not have been able to hit Friday’s winning shot had the defense not kept a clean sheet. ‘I trust them,’ goalkeeper Brittany Anghel said of the back unit. ‘That’s the main thing. To know that they have my back and I have theirs. I think they did a great job putting pressure on them. We just had two great games from the defense. We just have to score some goals, and that’s it. ‘You can’t win games without goals.’ Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on October 17, 2010 at 12:00 pmcenter_img Commentslast_img

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