It was New York's College Team against Chicago's Big Ten Team in a nonconference lacrosse battle and, this time, New York's team prevailed. No. 2 Syracuse pulled away from No. 7 Northwestern, 16-12, in the Carrier Dome on Sunday afternoon.
Syracuse's attacking trifecta of seniors Kayla Treanor and Halle Majorana and sophomore Riley Donahue proved to be too much for Northwestern's defense. Majorana had 3 goals and 3 assists and Donahue finished with a goal and 2 assists, while Treanor, the undisputed leader of the Orange and a potential Tewaaraton Trophy finalist, finished with 4 goals and an assist.
But perhaps Treanor's biggest impact came in the draw control circle, where she helped Syracuse dominate Northwestern to the tune of 20-10. Without winning the draw, it is hard to win possession. Without possession, it is hard to score goals.
The first half started about as poorly as it could have for the young Wildcats as they went down 3-0 after about 4 minutes of gameplay. The experienced Orange were doing whatever they wanted on the field, facing practically no resistance at all from Northwestern. The Orange's third goal illustrated this well, as the team passed the ball quickly and effectively in the tight space around Northwestern's goal, from in front of the goal to behind to back in front for a quick shot and goal by sophomore Donahue, beating freshman keeper Mallory Weisse.
However, Northwestern showed impressive resolve in getting things back on track. Kelly Amonte Hiller's team held Syracuse scoreless for the next 15 minutes while scoring 5 straight goals of their own. After the first three goals, the Orange held a 6-0 shots-on-goal advantage, but after Northwestern took a 5-3 lead, the Wildcats led the SOG category 8-6.
Redshirt junior Christina Esposito was key to this charge, playing fearlessly and bringing positive energy to the team when it was down in addition to scoring 2 goals. Her second goal proved this. After a save from Orange keeper Allie Murray, Esposito knocked it free from Murray's stick, causing the ball to roll into the net and bringing Northwestern within one, 3-2, before junior Sheila Nesselbush tied the game at 3 following a free position goal. Surprisingly, sophomore standout Selena Lasota served mostly as a decoy during this run, not touching the ball much.
After going down 5-3, the Orange went on a 5-1 run to end the half, going into the break up 8-6. The key for their run was Treanor. Last year, she was a dynamic scorer, tallying 60 goals on the season. Over the offseason, she added draw controls to her game, and dominated that facet against Northwestern.
Amonte Hiller tried to mix things up, sending Lasota to the draw circle in place of the usual Shelby Fredericks. Neither proved effective, nor did tall freshman Liza Elder. The draw control is a place Northwestern historically dominates, so the Wildcats coach was surely not happy to see the Wildcats so thoroughly dominated.
The second half's start was delayed because of a stick inspection. Treanor, who had been dominating in the draw circle, had her stick called into question by Amonte Hiller for potentially violating width and depth rules. After much deliberation, it was ruled ineligible so her and another Syracuse player were each given two-minute penalties, giving Northwestern a two-player advantage to start the half.
Despite also losing a player to a yellow card about 30 seconds in, Northwestern capitalized, scoring and cutting the deficit to 8-7. After another long Northwestern possession, Sheila Nesselbush tied things at 8 with a goal.
After that, however, things began to unravel for the Wildcats. It kept coming back to the draw circle, as it usually does in the women's game where there is no shot clock. Treanor kept giving the Orange possession, even after a Syracuse goal.
Eventually, Syracuse's offense wore down the Wildcat defense and scored, which usually was followed by Treanor earning another Syracuse possession immediately afterwards. Although Northwestern kept fighting, it was too little too late against one of the country's top teams.