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first_img Published on April 6, 2016 at 12:54 am Contact Sam: sjfortie@syr.edu | @Sam4TR Facebook Twitter Google+ Gary Gait said he saw a team that lacked hustle, energy and failed to adapt to the situation the Orange faced as a team trailing on the road. But for the Syracuse head coach and junior defender Haley McDonnell, the one prevailing thing that doomed the team most was a lack of communication. That led to a 13-8 upset loss on the road for then-No. 3 Syracuse during Spring Break to then-No. 16 Boston College. “Even while the game was going on, we knew we needed to reconvene and (figure it out),” McDonnell said. “… We weren’t as focused as we needed to be and it showed on the field. (Our team) didn’t prepare as well as we needed to for that game.” Since Boston College, No. 4 Syracuse’s (10-3, 3-1 Atlantic Coast) lowest point this season, it has returned the level of play befitting of its No. 2 preseason ranking. The SU defense has shut down two of the conference’s best scorers, held one team to half its average scoring output and spurred a three-game winning streak. It’s all because of one fix that increased talking and decreased goals allowed. “I think they’ve responded really well (to the Boston College game),” Gait said. “A lot of it is with energy and hustle (picking) up … but the number one thing is communication.” AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThat’s keyed the winning streak that began on the road against No. 4 Notre Dame and continued in the Carrier Dome against No. 14 Duke and unranked Connecticut. The Orange defense held each of those teams under their averages for shots and goals in each game. Against Duke, attacks Kyra Harney and Kelci Smesko, two of the ACC’s top five goal-scorers, combined for only one shot. In those games after BC, Gait said there’s been a noticeable difference in communication on defense. He said the lack of talk before contributed to being unable to anticipate groundballs, losing speed on defenders with bad angles and those things put SU in tough situations. The communication, according to McDonnell, could be as simple as saying, “Hey, I’m on your right,” when running back in the defensive zone. Or it could be about rotation in Syracuse’s zone ‘backer defense. Whatever it need be, McDonnell said, the team just needs to talk. That’s largely because the importance of defensive communication extends beyond the defenders. SU goalkeeper Allie Murray’s unusual aggression in net puts SU at risk of allowing open-netters, which assistant coach Regy Thorpe said he’s OK with in February, but to limit those opportunities the defense needed to talk. Gait particularly saw that against Connecticut, when the defense was “dialed in.” He said they were pressuring shooters, allowed no easy shots which, in turn, allowed Murray to make easy saves. “Getting that first save (against UConn) is huge to building her confidence,” Gait said. “She got seven saves in that first half and a lot of it is because there was pressure on the shooters (through communication).” In the first win of the streak, against Notre Dame, Murray saved one shot and two were forced wide of the net by the defense in the last 24 seconds to preserve a one-goal lead. It’s a run that’s sprung from team dissatisfaction one afternoon in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, over Spring Break, a day when McDonnell said the team knew it was much better than what it showed. “We just talked about the way it was (in the locker room),” Gait said of the BC postgame team talk. “’You got outhustled and you got outworked. Remember this, learn from it and let’s move forward.’” Commentslast_img read more

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