Women's Lacrosse

Syracuse attempting to break from history in NCAA semifinal against Maryland

Daily Orange File Photo

Maryland has bounced Kayla Treanor and Syracuse out of the NCAA tournament for the last three seasons. She has one more chance to beat the Terrapins and get to another NCAA championship game.

Syracuse head coach Gary Gait shifted his weight, leaned on the orange lacrosse stick on his right side and hesitated for a second.

It was Jan. 28, the first time he’d spoken to the media for the 2016 season, and he’d been asked a question about how the Orange would finally find a way to win when it mattered most this year. How the Orange would turn a decade of postseason heartbreak into a storybook ending. How the Orange would win a national championship.

Before the season, Syracuse had expectations. They returned 10 starters, added an aggressive goalkeeper who could get red hot at times and shifted star Kayla Treanor to the draw circle. The Orange dominated its first five games then lost three of its next five games. The Orange beat the teams it was supposed to and lost to North Carolina twice, including an overtime loss in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. But that didn’t matter in the bigger picture.

To get the national championship it so desperately wanted, Gait said Syracuse needed to simply elevate its play as a team. Four months ago, he immediately pointed to a blueprint, the team SU wanted to be like: Maryland.

It seemed pre-ordained that this matchup would happen again: Syracuse-Maryland on the season’s final weekend for the fourth straight year. Twice the Terps have knocked off the Orange in the semifinal and once in the national championship. On Friday night at 7:30, No. 4 seed Syracuse (19-5, 5-2 ACC) has a chance to rewrite its legacy and earn the upset over top-seeded and undefeated Maryland (21-0, 5-0 Big Ten). It would be the first time in nine tries that the SU seniors would’ve beaten UMD.

“There’s an extra something for every game, but especially for (Maryland),” SU assistant coach Michelle Tumolo said. “They have that national championship mentality. Once we win, we’ll get it. … It’s just that next level that we can definitely reach. Different teams win all the time on the boys end.

“We just need one team to crack that spell. We can be that team.”

The history between the two programs is rich. SU head coach Gary Gait began his career in College Park, Maryland as an assistant alongside the Terps now-head coach, Cathy Reese, and coached against Syracuse in its first-ever game. The Orange’s two-time All-American, Halle Majorana, transferred from UMD after her freshman season. Midfielder Erica Bodt and defenders Kaeli O’Connor and Haley McDonnell grew up in Maryland.

Syracuse’s senior class entered college ranked as the best recruiting class in the country. It included No. 2 individual recruit, Kayla Treanor. She placed on behind Maryland midfielder Taylor Cummings. Inside Lacrosse wrote “it wasn’t even close” between Cummings and the field, and that she might have been the nation’s best player before she stepped foot on a college campus.

“Watching these two teams play against each other, having this ongoing tension, is good for the sport. It’s good for young girls to see and to challenge each other,” said Alyssa Treanor, Kayla’s sister and a women’s lacrosse coach at Union College. “I’m sure for my sister it’s more of a touchy subject but for me it’s been really fun.”

Multiple former players — including greats Alyssa Murray and Tee Ladouceur — said a win over Maryland could be program-changing.

Cummings-Treanor, Gait-Reese and even Syracuse-Maryland has been a one-sided “rivalry,” but in the history of SU lacrosse, it is all the program has ever had to cling to. The last time SU beat UMD, in the regular season four years ago, on March 10, 2012, Tumolo was a junior. Before Maryland’s reign, it was Northwestern who beat Syracuse consistently. Three times in the six seasons from 2007 to 2012, the Wildcats beat the Orange on the season’s final weekend.

“We lost the national championship so (beating Maryland) didn’t matter,” Tumolo said.

Alyssa Treanor expressed the same sentiment. After each Maryland postseason game, she waits by her phone for a text from Kayla that will come sooner or much later. Alyssa knows each time the Terrapins oust the Orange it cuts her sister short of the only thing she’s ever wanted for her team.

“It’s frustrating because we always lose to (Maryland),” Kayla Treanor said before the NCAA tournament. “But our season’s not over yet. Hopefully we have another chance.”

And on Friday night, Treanor’s hope becomes reality. Syracuse will get one last chance to overcome the only obstacle it has never been able to work around.

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