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Fresh legs, multiple lines the key to Syracuse’s strong play in the midfield

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 21, 2018 at 11:08 pm Contact Michael: mmcclear@syr.edu | @MikeJMcCleary It happened fast. In Syracuse’s season opener against Connecticut on Feb. 9, UConn players barreled past SU’s back line and put SU in a 2-0 hole 1:24 into the game.But as the game wore on, the pace of play caught up to UConn’s starters. Before the speed slowed down SU, the Orange made a switch.“Our depth and ability to use two and three midfield lines took its toll,” SU head coach Gary Gait said. “You saw the exhaustion on their starters. They were tired and they made a lot of mistakes.”In its first two games, No. 5 Syracuse (2-0) has used a multitude of different lineups in the midfield and made frequent subs in an attempt to stay fresh as opponents tire out. The new rule allowing free movement for players after whistles has sped up the game by lessening the amount of stoppages in any given game. It’s also allowed the Orange to tap into its depth in the early going.“We got three, even four lines of girls that can play,” redshirt senior Taylor Gait said. “Fresh legs is always great when you run up and down the field.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAgainst Connecticut and again against Oregon nine days later, Syracuse used 13 players listed as midfielders on the official roster, changing starting groups for each game. Gary Gait said cycling new players in and out of the game is one of his biggest emphases going forward.Players are still adjusting to the faster pace. Freshman midfielder Sam Swart said that the college game was “faster than (she) expected” and, with the whistle blowing less frequently, she’s hardly found time to stop and collect her thoughts.“You don’t have any moments to breathe, you just go,” Swart said. “The whole game was a blur… I feel like I didn’t even take one breather.”But the adjustment from high school to college wasn’t the problem. The game has changed. Swart remembers talking to fellow midfielder Gait after the game and even she, a fifth-year senior, said to Swart that it’s a “totally different game” than she’s used to playing.The movement affects the midfield the most, sophomore attack Nicole Levy said. Though Levy said it hasn’t affected her game so far, senior attack Riley Donahue notices the speed of the game changing so there’s “never a standing moment.”But the Orange players have yet to feel the effect of the faster game because Gary Gait was ready for it. Syracuse has used constant switches throughout games to make sure players are getting the rest needed for the Orange to go the distance in games.On Feb. 18, Oregon came out of the second-half gate and moved fast. After scoring the first three goals of the frame, Syracuse started to lose its early lead. But following a few switches in personnel, the Orange got back on track and cinched up a 17-11 win.The substitutions were important to the midfielders. With the game moving faster than ever, SU has found new ways to keep individual fatigue from affecting its play. Luckily for Syracuse, players and coaches alike are confident that this year’s team is deeper than in year’s past.“Our coaches usually don’t let us get to the point where we are super tired,” midfielder Kelzi Van Atta said. “We’re subbing on the fly so everybody is fresh all the time.”The new faces getting involved will be a common thread throughout the year, as Syracuse aims to give itself the advantage over shorthanded teams. Gary Gait said the rules this year make it difficult to have just one midfield line, so SU prepared two, senior Neena Merola said. Others, like midfielder Gait, said SU has more than two.“Our team does a lot of subs really fast, which is awesome. I think it’s the way our coaches prepared it,” Swart said, “they knew (it) was going to be fast.”So far this year, everything has happened fast, but Syracuse thinks it has the formula that will allow it to catch up. Commentslast_img read more