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Syracuse has to go through these teams to make it back to the promise land

 Syracuse celebrating a goal against UNC by huddling by the net
Syracuse comes off of a surprise early exit from the ACC Tournament and, entering the NCAA tourney, looks to return to the championship game.

Syracuse women's lacrosse is ready for its redemption tour, but first, it must go through these teams. WAER's Jenna Elique learns more about the squads that join the Orange on the bracket.

Postseason lacrosse is here. The Syracuse women’s lacrosse team represents Central New York as the fifth seed and looks to return to the national championship game for the second straight year. But before we skip ahead to Memorial Day Weekend, let’s look at which teams join the Orange at the bottom left side of the bracket.

 Syracuse celebrating a goal against UNC by huddling by the net
Syracuse comes off of a surprise early exit from the ACC Tournament and, entering the NCAA tourney, looks to return to the championship game.

First up is Fairfield, the first opponent for the Cuse. The Stags earned an automatic bid after winning their fourth straight MAAC Championship with a 14-11 victory over the top-seeded Monmouth. The shining star of that conference tournament for Fairfield was team co-captain Kelly Horning. The midfielder recorded nine points in three games to be named tourney MVP. The grad student has been consistent for the Stags all season, as well, as the team’s second-leading goal and point scorer. SU faces Fairfield on Friday and will have to account for Horning and the rest of the Stag attack. The defense is also a threat. Fairfield ranks in the top-15 in the nation for caused turnovers.

Next, UMass comes into the tournament after losing in its conference championship game 15-11 to the only other Atlantic 10 team in the NCAA tourney Saint Joseph’s. The Minutewomen finished the season ranked number 22 in the country and had a strong regular season. UMass went undefeated in conference play and only lost two games, both against ranked opponents. The first was a clobbering from Boston College 22-5. The other was a closer battle with UConn 17-14. Both teams made it into the national tournament field. This means that the Minutewomen are battle-tested and ready to surprise some people. The first contest for UMass is against Princeton.

Making our way down the bracket, let’s talk about, the host school, Princeton. The Tigers won the Ivy League Championship with a commanding 19-9 over Yale. The Ivy powerhouse is a top-10 team led by Skaneateles native Kyla Sears. The attacker knows how to earn a free position. Sears leads the nation in successful eight-meter opportunities per game with an average of 1.53. This is more than debatably the best shooter in the country: Charlotte North. The senior is also a top-20 goal scorer and top-15 in points. Last year, the Ivy League didn’t have a season, so this is Princeton’s shot for a major bounce back on the national stage. This starts with UMass on Friday.

Maddy Baxter (Blue #49) guarding a Notre Dame player who looks to score with her stick over her head to her right
Notre Dame played Syracuse and lost in overtime 17-16 as part of a four-game skid at the beginning of the season.

Now onto a team that Syracuse is familiar with in Notre Dame. The Irish are having a little bit of a down year, finishing the season at .500. What lifted this squad into postseason relevance is the way this team has recovered. Notre Dame went on a four-game losing streak early in the year after its first contest, but it’s not always about how you start. The Irish enter the tournament, winning four of their last five with an upset win over Duke in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. Next up for Notre Dame is a rematch against Michigan, the team at the top of the downward ND spiral.

The last contest between the Irish and the Wolverines ended with an 11-7 UM advantage. Michigan has had a rough batch of its own, losing five of the last six contests and almost all coming during home games. Some time away from Ann Arbor will probably do the Wolverines some good. The team didn’t compete in the Big Ten tournament but did have some standouts earn first-team, all-conference honors. Sophomore defender Maddie Burns and senior Kaitlyn Mead. Burns leads the team in draw controls and is top-10 in the conference in the category with an average of around four per game. On the other hand, Mead is second on the team in scoring with 24 goals this season. The Wolverines look to beat the Irish again on Friday.

Michigan players celebrating a goal
Michigan searches for a repeat performance against Notre Dame. The Wolverines won back in February 11-7.

Down to the final two. First, Central Michigan. The Chippewas earned their bid after winning the MAC Championship with a thrashing of Robert Morris 20-10. The thing that stands out about this team is its balanced offense. Central Michigan had four players score four or more goals in the championship game, with three scoring five. This has been a pattern that has followed the team from the regular season. The Chippewas have one main leader in Maggie Diebold, who has notched over 60 goals so far this year, but she’s not the only one. The supporting cast of the Hoyt sisters and Amy Whiteside have also put together stellar campaigns. The trio has finished 110 goals together to give this squad an extra boost. This offense will need all of this firepower for when it takes on its first-round opponent, Northwestern.

Now, this is a team that the Orange is all too familiar with after its 17-16 overtime loss to the Wildcats back at the beginning of March. The formula has pretty much been the same for the fourth-seeded Northwestern. Lauren Gilbert and Jill Giradi. The grad student, Gilbert, is one of the best attackers in the country in a bunch of categories. Top-10 in points per game, goals per game, and top-15 in free position percentage. This is in large part to the number of extra possessions earned by draw control specialist Giradi. The Watertown native is second in the nation in draw controls per game with over 10 a game, making this duo lethal for defenses. The first team to try to figure out this puzzle is Central Michigan.

That's it for the initial path for Syracuse with all of the members on its side of the bracket. There are obviously other major players in the tournament, like North Carolina and Boston College, but the SU faithful are all too familiar and will continue to hear about these juggernauts through the tournament. For now, the journey to Memorial Day weekend goes through these other teams first.