Mar 26

No. 4 Syracuse’s defense picked apart in 16-7 loss to No. 15 Notre Dame

Gary Gait paced the sidelines. He turned, flung his arms upward at the referee and told Syracuse associate head coach Regy Thorpe that Nicole Levy had used an illegal stick because of an untied shooting string. Levy served a two-minute, non-releasable penalty.

During Levy’s absence, Notre Dame rattled off three goals in slightly over a minute, turning its three-goal lead into an 11-4 blowout just five minutes into the second half.

The three-goal run by No. 15 Notre Dame (9-4, 3-1 Atlantic Coast) broke down No. 4 Syracuse’s (8-3, 2-1) defense. The Fighting Irish did not relent. Notre Dame’s offense swarmed the Syracuse defense and freshman goalie Asa Goldstock in the Orange’s 16-7 loss Sunday afternoon inside the Carrier Dome. Opponents have now scored 16 goals in each of SU’s past four games, three of which SU lost by at least seven goals.

“When you keep giving the other team opportunities to score,” Gait said, “it makes it very difficult.”

The Orange shot 7-of-30 and turned the ball over 16 times. Not only did Syracuse fail to convert on its chances, but SU gave extra possessions to UND, which wore down the defense with long, efficient possessions.

With 24:04 remaining in the first half and the score tied at one, Notre Dame won the draw. After a methodical possession with a missed free-position shot and a recovery, Heidi Annaheim scored on Goldstock. Syracuse defended well for over 70 seconds, only to give up a goal.

The Fighting Irish controlled the majority of the first half, with several possessions lasting 70 and 80 seconds. Several times, such as Annaheim’s goal, SU failed to double team a cutting attacker, resulting in one-on-one situations against Goldstock.

“We really focused on deliberate offense,” Notre Dame head coach Christine Halfpenny said, “where we could get the ball through as many people’s hands as possible.”

The Fighting Irish also scored quick, easy goals early in the shot clock. Down 6-4, Syracuse had one last possession with no shot clock. Rather than taking the last shot, SU junior midfielder Neena Merola shot with 18 seconds left. Notre Dame turned the shot for a fast break with one second left to take a 7-4 halftime lead.

Syracuse struggled offensively in the first half and gave up seven goals, but a three-goal lead was in reach. SU had come back from far worse this season. Against Virginia three weeks ago, SU overcame an 11-2 first-half deficit.

Less than four minutes into the second half on Sunday, Casey Pearsall took two SU defenders far post and whipped a shot in the top left corner past Goldstock to extend the UND lead. After the goal, Halfpenny called an illegal stick on Levy.

With a man up, Notre Dame scored 24 seconds into Levy’s penalty. But because the penalty was non-releasable, Levy had to remain on the sideline. SU continued to defend down a player, and Notre Dame scored again 46 seconds later. And again 26 seconds after that. Even after Levy’s return, the visitors scored one minute later. The Fighting Irish turned its three-goal lead into eight in three minutes, an offensive stretch that beat both of Syracuse’s totals from each half.

“Our goal was to get in there and run our offense,” Halfpenny said, “and not waste time.”

Notre Dame scored its 14th and 15th goals less than 90 seconds apart from each other, then managed to use 84 seconds on the shot clock before scoring its 16th goal with one minute to play. All game, Notre Dame mixed long possessions with a barrage of quick attacks. The Orange surrendered 16 goals on 30 shots.

“On the defensive end we always need to prepared to play 90 seconds consecutively,” Syracuse defender Kathy Rudkin siad, “and expect the ball to be on our end a lot and just step up when we can.”

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Mar 26

Syracuse struggles to keep up with No. 6 Georgia Tech in 4-3 loss

As the dark grey sweat stains on Anna Shkudun’s shirt grew, so did her third-set deficit. After 19 hard games against Georgia Tech’s power hitting Johnnise Renaud, Shkudun was visibly drained.

Her breath dogged. The graduate student hustled back and forth down the baseline at Renaud’s whim, with barely enough energy to fire back her lofty, weak returns. As fatigue set in for Shkudun, Renaud saw her opening and made the third set the most decisive.

“The other girl (Renaud) just stepped it up a notch and started being more aggressive,” SU head coach Younes Limam said.

After splitting the first two sets with Renaud, 3-6, 6-4, Shkudun dropped the third set 6-0.

The Orange started the morning down 2-0. Gabriela Knutson and Miranda Ramirez then both picked up singles win and knotted the score at two a piece. But Syracuse (5-8, 2-4 Atlantic Coast) couldn’t get over the hump and pull out a win over No. 6 Georgia Tech (17-2, 7-0) as Maria Tritou couldn’t force a third set and Shkudun’s faltered.

“I thought that Anna and Maria both did a great job of fighting,” Ramirez said. “It just didn’t happen today.”

After Kenya Jones put Tritou in a hole, winning the first set 6-4, the sophomore stepped up her play in the second set. Tritou came roaring out of the gate in the second stanza, asserting herself with a 4-1 lead.

Chance after chance kept passing Tritou, and soon enough, Jones had clawed back and taken the lead 5-4, winning four straight games. Tritou responded once more, making it 5-5, but that was all she could do. Jones won the next two games, winning the No. 4 singles match, 6-4, 7-5.

“Unfortunately,” Limam said, “the other girl (Jones) played the bigger points a little bit better.”

Only two players — Dina Hegab and Shkudun — were left for SU, and both would need to win.

Hegab held strong against Nadia Gizdova in No. 6 singles, but Renaud played antagonist to Shkudun. Early in the match, Shkudun fired a crosscourt volley that Renaud called out. Shkudun began arguing her case with the official, while Renaud could be heard saying, “Stop, stop, stop, stop it,” in Shkudun’s direction. The irritation didn’t cease for Shkudun.

Still recovering from a November knee surgery and not fully in shape — according to Knutson and Limam — Shkudun struggled to traverse the baseline, and Renaud exploited this reality. Renaud would pound Shkudun with cross-court volleys before picking her spot to send a backhander down the opposite line. Other rallies, Renaud go forehand to backhand, making Shkudun change direction and chase every shot, wearing her down.

By the third set, Shkudun was exhausted, and Renaud got aggressive. When Shkudun fired one of her high-arcing returns, Renaud would charge the net and place a shot past Shkudun.

Frustration boiled over for Shkudun when she had a chance to capitalize on one of Renaud’s rare mistakes and buried her kill shot in the net. Shkudun stomped her way to the baseline, berating herself.

“She just has to keep pushing and pushing,” Knutson said of Shkudun, “and she’ll be able to win all the matches she has left.”

After Renaud quickly dispatched Shkudun in the third set, Hegab played on and won. But the victory was muted by the fact SU had already lost. With the match on the line, Syracuse didn’t have enough in the tank.

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Mar 26

Miranda Ramirez wins 10th straight, even as Syracuse loses to No. 6 Georgia Tech

Syracuse’s Miranda Ramirez sent her opponent, Georgia Tech’s Rasheeda McAdoo, back and forth along the baseline. Each point seemed to end with a Ramirez winner that McAdoo couldn’t quite reach. McAdoo consistently blazed the same trail down the endline as she inevitably failed to catch up to a cross court shot from Ramirez.

“I could tell that when she was on the run, she had a tendency to either make more errors or give me more opportunities,” Ramirez said. “So, I just tried to take advantage of that.”

Ramirez and her strong baseline play resulted in her tenth straight singles win, 6-4, 6-4, and brought her to 11-1 on the season. But the Ramirez win was not enough for Syracuse (5-8, 2-4 Atlantic Coast) on Sunday to overcome No. 6 Georgia Tech (17-2, 7-0), though, as the Yellow Jackets won, 4-3.

The freshman Ramirez faced a tough challenge in her debut at SU’s top singles spot against Georgia Tech’s highest ranked player, No. 46 McAdoo. Their styles clashed.

McAdoo played with power. The senior’s serves sizzled, and her hits from any point on the court were strong. Ramirez played with finesse. She seemed content to wait along her baseline and return any slams that McAdoo offered. In focusing on placement rather than power, Ramirez succeeded in outlasting McAdoo.

Ramirez went through the whole match without changing the blank expression on her face. On the other side, McAdoo jawed at the ref on multiple occasions. McAdoo consistently seemed frustrated as she looked at the ceiling or stared at her feet when she couldn’t reach a deep baseline shot following long rallies. Ramirez stayed stoic as ever, regardless of the outcome of an individual point.

“It’s more about the process than about the end result,” Ramirez said. “As long as I keep focusing on what I’m doing the same in the moment, then the result will come after.”

Ramirez lost a tight doubles match with her partner, Gabriela Knutson. The pair lost to Georgia Tech’s No. 113 Paige Hourigan and Kenya Jones, 7-6 (7-3). Both Knutson and Ramirez felt they played well in doubles, and agreed that it didn’t hold them back heading into singles, where they both won.

“(Ramirez) has the right attitude,” head coach Younes Limam said. “She works extremely hard at every single practice. Hopefully she will keep at it and keep improving, because that’s our main goal is to keep getting better every day.”

Ramirez will just continue to do what has worked ten times in a row: Trust her process and calmly hit baseline winners.

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Mar 26

Former LSU QB Brandon Harris transferring to UNC

Brandon Harris, the former LSU quarterback who is among the top graduate transfer prospects available at his position, announced on Sunday that he is transferring to North Carolina. Harris’ arrival … Click to Continue »

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Mar 26

New Pitt athletic director Lyke ready to lead with passion, integrity

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review<br/>Pitt chancellor Patrick Gallagher and new athletic director Heather Lyke speak during a news conference Monday, March 20, 2017, at Petersen Events Center.
In the midst of a warm, lively conversation with incoming Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke, the phone suddenly went silent. The conversation had turned toward ...

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Mar 26

My Take on Wake: Interview with Manning, Take I

MTOW: What is your general assessment of the season?

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Mar 26

My Take on Wake: Interview with Manning, Take II

MTOW: And how do you improve your defense?

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Mar 26

My Take On Wake: Interview with Manning, Take III

MTOW: I really loved seeing Brandon Childress this year. You didn’t get a lot from the other three freshmen. Would you assess the performance of the freshman class?

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Mar 26

UNC’s Theo Pinson hopes to make difference against Malik Monk

The first time North Carolina played Kentucky, back on Dec. 17 in Las Vegas, Theo Pinson, the junior forward, watched from the bench while he continued to recover from the … Click to Continue »

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Mar 26

Despite lack of starting experience, Smith expected to help shore up right side of Tech’s offensive line

Tyrell Smith doesn't lack for know-how when it comes to playing various positions on the offensive line. He's done it all, spending time at guard, center and tackle in his career, but his perspective is a lot different this spring.

Not only has he gotten the not-so subtle verbal kick-in-the-seat-of-the-pants...

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