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No. 2 Syracuse women's lacrosse takes on No. 7 James Madison in NCAA Quarterfinals

girls standing waving lacrosse sticks and celebrating
Syracuse celebrates after a 25-8 win over Johns Hopkins in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on May 14, 2023.

After dominating Johns Hopkins 25-8 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, No. 2 Syracuse women's lacrosse (17-2, 8-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) advances to play No. 7 James Madison (19-2, 6-0 American Athletic Conference) in the quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon at the JMA Wireless Dome. The Orange put together an offensive clinic against the Blue Jays last weekend, tallying a season-high 25 goals on 36 shots.

This matchup will be the second all-time meeting between the two schools and the second NCAA Tournament quarterfinals meeting. In 2010, SU beat JMU 7-3 in Harrisburg, Virginia, before losing to top-seeded Maryland in the semifinals.

The Dukes enter the quarterfinals after having stunned Maryland 15-14 in the second round. Trailing by four with under seven minutes to play, JMU rattled off five unanswered goals to steal the victory. Attacker Caitlin McElwee completed the comeback on a go-ahead goal with 54 seconds left, and the Dukes held on from there.

It's been quite the success for James Madison in its inaugural AAC season under head coach Shelley Klaes. The Dukes dropped its season opener at then-No. 1 North Carolina but proceeded to win 17 straight games, sweeping conference play before losing to No. 6 Florida in their conference championship game.

JMU finished a perfect 10-0 at home for the first time since 2018. That squad went on to win the school's first-ever national championship.

Thursday's matchup will also feature two of the five Tewaaraton Finalists. While Meaghan Tyrrell will represent SU, attacker Isabella Peterson stands on the opposite sideline for JMU. The junior leads the Dukes with 89 goals and 112 points, 37 more goals and points than her team's second-leading scorer, Tai Jankowski. Peterson sits right behind Meaghan with 5.33 points per game, good for third-best in the country.

As a cohesive unit, there are few holes in this James Madison team. With a trio of draw control specialists in Peterson, Rachel Matey and Maddie Epke, the Dukes win over 58% of their draw controls (compared to Syracuse's 55%). In addition, JMU converts over 54% of its free position shots, the third-best rate in the nation.

Led by senior goalkeeper Kat Buchanan, the Virginia school holds its opponents to 7.62 scores per contest, the third-lowest clip in Division-I. It also causes over nine turnovers per game, almost two more than Syracuse's defense.

There's not much James Madison does wrong, even in games where it lost. Falling to UNC and Florida, the Dukes still attempted more shots and committed fewer turnovers than their opponents in each game. However, the main problem came with scoring late in those contests. The team combined for just six second-half goals in its two losses, shooting an ugly 22.2 percent. To be successful, look for SU's defense to up its pressure against James Madison as the game progresses.

Playing inside the JMA Wireless Dome is a massive advantage for the Orange, who are 9-0 there this season. It's worth noting that the Dukes haven't had a true road game of this magnitude since its season opener against UNC. If JMU wants to move on, it'll have to win on the road against a ranked opponent, something it's only done once this season.

Opening draw control from Syracuse is set for noon.