Communication, on-field drills have solved Syracuse’s second-half struggles

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ It was happening all over again. Midway through the second half of Syracuse’s Feb. 24 matchup with then-No. 4 Northwestern, Lindsey McKone scored on a free-position opportunity to make it 12-12, erasing an early Orange lead. SU’s players on the field slowly walked to their huddle. The Wildcats’ sprinted in between them, jumping and yelling.A week prior, the Orange had entered halftime with a two-goal lead over No. 1 Boston College, only to be outscored by four goals in the second half and lose. After going into the break with a lead against Northwestern, another top-five team, Syracuse gave up five-straight goals and fell behind by two. If not for some late-game heroics by Megan Carney and Emily Hawryschuk, SU would’ve suffered the same fate at the hands of the Wildcats.Through the first nine games of No. 3 Syracuse’s (12-2, 4-1 Atlantic Coast) season, the Orange have outscored their opponents by 50 in the first half. In the final frame of those games, SU was outscored by seven. In six matchups against ranked teams over that stretch, SU’s struggles continued despite halftime leads after every contest. That disparity led to Syracuse’s only two losses of the season and two one-goal victories. Since then, the Orange have tweaked their halftime routine and outscored their opponents in the second half of each of their past five games.“I think it had a lot to do with getting too comfortable,” senior midfielder Natalie Wallon said. “When we come with our game plan in the first half it’s all great, we get up on teams by a lot then we get a little bit too comfortable.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSusie Teuscher | Digital Design EditorAgainst Boston College, it took just six minutes for the Eagles to turn their two-goal halftime deficit into a lead they never relinquished. On March 9, in its loss to No. 2 Maryland, Syracuse went on a three-goal scoring run to end the first half and entered the break with a lead. But just like Boston College, it took the Terrapins just six minutes out of halftime to take control of the game.Players and head coach Gary Gait attributed the lapses to a lack of focus. To correct this, they began to work on the 10-minute break between halves.“We just talk about starting over again, starting fresh in the new half,” Gait said. “Let’s go out there and do what we need to do, make sure they don’t just fire the ball at the goal and they don’t get comfortable and they play hard.”Players first enter the locker room and talk among themselves. Then, the coaches, usually led by associate head coach Regy Thorpe, come in and “pump-up” the players, Emily Hawryschuk said. Thorpe, who “owns” halftime speeches, she said, helps the team realize when it’s being complacent.“It’s almost like hitting a reset button,” Wallon said. “Not only focusing on what just happened but what’s going to happen. (The coaches) shifting their tone of voice has helped a lot.”Aside from increased feedback and criticism on its play, Syracuse is also getting out onto the field quicker. At the beginning of the season, the Orange spent all of halftime in the locker room without any warm-up. Now they get out earlier, practicing ground balls and shooting with the downtime left on the clock.It has resulted in better second halves for SU, which hadn’t outscored a team by more than two goals in the second frame during its first nine games. Now, it’s scored 30 goals in its last five second halves, including two seven-goal outbursts.“We have a whole new game plan now, our coaches set us up to make sure we’re focused the entire time,” sophomore Sam Swart said. “Coming out and doing ground balls, less sitting around during halftime.”Syracuse’s new tactics were tested last week, when it found itself down three goals at halftime to Notre Dame, its first halftime deficit of the season. Instead of losing its focus, SU poured in five goals and held the Fighting Irish to just one — the first time it outscored a ranked team in the second half all season.The Orange have three games left in its regular season before the ACC Tournament starts in late April, including a matchup with No. 4 North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Saturday. Earlier in the season, Syracuse could’ve been prone to a potential second half collapse against the Tar Heels, even if it jumped out to an early lead. But with SU’s new halftime tactics successfully in place, the Orange appear poised to prevent future second-half surges.“No matter what team we play, they’re not just gonna give up, even if we are up by a bunch at halftime,” senior attack Nicole Levy said. “We learned to respect those teams and acknowledge that they’re not just gonna give up and we gotta make sure that we’re focused in, dialed in the entire game.” Comments Published on March 31, 2019 at 9:31 pm Contact Eric: [email protected] | @esblack34last_img