Syracuse’s defense provides offense for stagnant Orange in conference play

first_imgSyracuse senior defender Alana O’Neill has recorded 10 shots since Syracuse began Atlantic Coast Conference, lifting her season total to 24. In the same span of conference play, SU’s top forward, Sydney Brackett, has only eight shots.On Oct. 5 against Pittsburgh, the defender’s looks on net paid off as O’Neill scored a goal on three shots.“I guess I was fortunate,” O’Neill said about her contributions against the Panthers. “I don’t think I account for a lot of the movement forward.”Syracuse (7-6-2, 2-4-1 ACC) has gotten two of its three goals in ACC play from defenders, despite the Orange only playing with three on the back line. The defense has done this while only taking 14 of SU’s 51 shots against conference opponents. O’Neill and Taylor Bennett, the team’s two defensive goal-scorers, have together accounted for nearly 30 percent of Syracuse’s shots on goal in ACC play.“It’s not bashing the forwards,” Bennett said, “It’s just that we have gotten opportunities.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Orange doesn’t care where its goals come from, Syracuse head coach Phil Wheddon said, after SU’s 1-0 win over Miami. Bennett, who netted SU’s goal against the Hurricanes from about 40 yards, is Syracuse’s only player to find the back of the net in its last three conference games.Against the Hurricanes, the Orange put eight shots on goal. Some opportunities, like a breakaway for forward Alex Lamontagne, were higher percentage chances than others. But, the Orange forwards, again, couldn’t find the net and were saved by the long shot by Bennett which “forced the goalkeeper to make a mistake,” Wheddon said.“I’m happy when the ball goes in the back of the net,” he continued.Though Bennett hopes the back line continues to get chances, the sophomore said scoring has definitely been a weakness for the Orange. Forwards and midfielders have only contributed one goal since conference play began, and SU has won only two contests against ACC opponents.Despite the Orange’s overall struggles, the defense has been the catalyst in both of SU’s conference victories.Against Miami, Bennett’s goal separated the Orange and the Hurricanes just enough, as SU buckled down and prevented any UM chances late in the game. Syracuse looked like the stronger team despite the inability of its forwards to put the ball in the net.Similarly, against Pittsburgh, Syracuse owned the scoreboard, 2-0, versus a bottom-tier ACC team in the Panthers. But it wasn’t a well-rounded effort that gave the Orange the win. All eight shots in the game came off the foot of just two players: the leading goal-scorer Brackett and the defender O’Neill.“With Alana, the fruits of her labor finally paid off,” Brackett said. “She’s a defender by the standard of the role, but I’m not surprised she was able to sink one in.”Including Thursday, the Orange will face No. 4 Duke and No. 13 Virginia in the next four days. The defense will have to step up, as the Blue Devils and Cavaliers both rank in the top four in goals scored in conference. But, in a game that will require defensive attention, the Orange is hoping forwards will start scoring soon.“We definitely need to score more,” Bennett said. “Defenders scoring two out of the three doesn’t really have anything to do with it. It’s just the way it happened.” Comments Published on October 18, 2017 at 10:12 pm Contact Michael: mmcclear@syr.edu | @MikeJMcCleary Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more