WLAX: Orange face BIG EAST foes on the road

This weekend's set of games marks the home stretch for No. 5/8 Syracuse women's lacrosse team (5-3, 1-0) four-game road trip. The Orange will take on Villanova (5-4, 0-1) on Friday and No. RV/16 Rutgers (8-2, 0-1) on Sunday.

Junior goalkeeper Alyssa Costantino is out indefinitely from injuries she sustained in a car accident early Sunday morning at 2:35 a.m. Costantino was one of four Syracuse lacrosse players involved. Junior midfielder Amy Cross and senior midfielder Bridget Daley were not hurt. Junior Scott Loy, a midfielder on the men's lacrosse team, complained of back and Costantino complained of facial pain.

"With Alyssa being out," Syracuse women's lacrosse head coach Gary Gait said, "we lose that ability to make an adjustment. This is an opportunity for Kelsey [Richardson] to step up and use it as a confidence builder knowing that she has a great chance to play from start to finish."

I had a chance to talk to sophomore attack Devon Collins this past Wednesday about her changing role on this Syracuse team.

Last year, the Rochester native played in all 23 games for the Orange, starting in 21 of them. This season, though, is a slight transition for Collins as she makes her mark coming off the bench for the Orange.

"At first," Collins said, "it was really hard on me to accept. But it's for the better of the team. Last year, I started and played around the crease. Now I'm subbing and playing up top more."

The jolt at first can be hard to grasp, however, Collins is taking it in stride and learning more and more about herself as a player than ever before.

"I'm learning to be more poised and relaxed," Collins said. "I'm letting the game come to me. If you can't change it, you have to embrace it and do the best you can and work with what you got."

Collins is welcoming the change and has become a spark off the bench as well as another threat on offense for this Syracuse team. In eight games, she has netted nine goals and one assist.

When talking about its matchups on the road against Villanova and Rutgers, Collins stressed the importance of starting strong and coming out early firing on all cylinders. The Orange has reached double-digit goals in each of its eight games and is 165-31 (8.41) when scoring at least 10 goals. When Syracuse has failed to reach that mark it is 20 of 71.

Gait noted that the team has watched the film and went over its mistakes on the defensive end. Halfway through the season, I don't expect Gait and assistant head coach Regy Thorpe to abandon the zone backer all together. The way Gait was talking about continuing to improve makes me think that his goal of this defense is to perfect it for the postseason.

Aside from senior defender Becca Block acting as the Orange's anchor on defense, freshman Maddy Huegel has been coming along, too, in her development as an up-and-coming defensive star. In its game against Northwestern, Huegel had her best game yet, recording four draw controls, a groundball and caused two turnovers. The Syracuse native and West Genesee lacrosse product knows the ins and outs of a high pressure defense.

Few notes on Villanova and No. RV/16 Rutgers: The Orange cannot look over Villanova, however, I am, and fast forwarding to its game against Rutgers on Sunday afternoon. The Scarlet Knights, to me, are an intriguing team in the BIG EAST. The team has solid wins over Princeton and Penn and only lost to conference foe Notre Dame by three goals. Rutgers will host UConn on Friday before taking on the Orange while another huge matchup looms on Saturday with No. 15/14 Loyola taking on No. 9/9 Georgetown.

The Orange owns a 3-0 advantage in its all-time series with the Wildcats and beat them last season 18-3. In that game, Syracuse came out on fire, scoring five of the first seven goals in the first half before dictating the entire second half. Senior Michelle Tumolo led the Orange with eight points, while junior Alyssa Murray went to score a team-high four goals.

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