Cardinals head coach Kellie Young was quoted after its double overtime loss against No. 6 Notre Dame back on April 5 as being "right there."
"We just need to turn the corner one more step," she went onto say in the press release.
Here are a few things I think people should key in on Friday night's matchup:
Scoring offense: Like Syracuse, Louisville can find the back of the net with ease. Ranked 7th in the country, averaging 14.67 goals per game, the Cardinals are led by Nikki Boltja. The junior has 42 goals (3.50 gpg) on the season, good for 5th in Division I. Freshman midfielder Kaylin Morissette (32g) and redshirt senior Katie Olivero (23 goals, 31 assists) round out the Cardinal's offensive weapons.
In its two wins on the road last weekend versus Villanova and Rutgers, Syracuse's freshmen class stole the show, contributing 13-of-the 29 goals (44 percent).
This past week, I was observing practice and noticed assistant coach Regy Thorpe faceguarding senior Michelle Tumolo behind the cage. While I can't speak for the team, I'm assuming that there is a method to head coach Gary Gait's madness. Gait preaches time in-and-time-out about being prepared and constantly improving. I wouldn't be surprised if Louisville tries to isolate Tummolo. When I talked to her a few weeks ago, I asked her how frustrating it was to be faceguarded by Northwestern's Kerri Harrington.
"Extremely frustrating," she said. "So annoying."
One player that seems to be flying under the radar is Katie Webster. The midfielder, in my opinion, has underachieved this season. Through 10 games this year, the junior has just 9 goals and no assists. At the end of the 2011-12 season, Webster had accumulated 41 goals and 15 assists.
"She has so much more to offer than what she has delivered so far," Gait said. "It's something that we have talked about quite a bit. She has the potential to be one of the best midfielders in country. We are just trying to work together to get to that position. She isn't there right now, but I'm hoping by the end of the year she is. I think she has the potential to be a three-to-five goal a game scorer but she hasn't gone after that yet."
Battle on the circle: The Orange had its best outing yet on the circle against the Scarlet Knights by far, going 17-for-20, in the 10-8 victory. Louisville, however, may have something to say about that. The Cardinals are ranked No. 5 and grab roughly 15.08 draw controls down per game. A huge part of the team's success is due in part to junior Monica Negron. The defender leads the team with 51 on the season. Morissette is a close second with 47.
Syracuse freshman defender, Maddy Huegel, a fixture lately on the circle, alluded to practicing draw controls this past week in practice, too, to eliminate Negron's presence.
"She is a freshman that is developing confidence. Every week she is getting more focused and comfortable playing defense. Coach Thorpe recognized she had the potential to be an impact player right away. She does an amazing job on the draw controls and that's where we first started using her. She has poise under pressure."
Huegel has come into her own at Syracuse, noting that she was "really nervous" the first couple of weeks of preseason, but eventually, as time went on and as she got multiple practices and games under her belt, it became almost second nature.
A lacrosse product from West Genesee, Huegel was introduced to the zone backer early – the defense that Orange currently runs now.
"I'm glad we ran it in high school," she said. "It helped me a lot."
"When the first midfield line is in," Huegel said, "I'm usually behind the line. When the second midfield line is in, I'm usually on the draw circle."
Keep an eye out for this matchup, it could prove very interesting.
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