WLAX : Orange uses 2nd-half scoring barrage to bury Huskies
As Michelle Tumolo fell to the ground, she threw up a haphazard shot from her knees. The off-balance shot bounced off midfielder Sarah Holden and into the goal. The assist was Tumolo’s first of what would be a game-high six points on the night.
‘I don’t think I’ve had a game like that ever,’ Tumolo said.
In one of her best games of the season, the SU attack Tumolo led Syracuse to a 17-9 win over Connecticut on Friday in the Carrier Dome, highlighted by a second-half offensive outburst that put away UConn for good.
The two teams were stuck in a 6-6 stalemate at the midway point, after a half that featured practically every player on the field falling down or getting toppled at some point.
But SU (4-6, 2-0 Big East) exploded for 11 goals in the second half while holding the Huskies (6-5, 0-3) to three. Four of Tumolo’s points came in that second half, when the Orange turned a close game into a blowout.
SU head coach Gary Gait credited the second-half change to the mental aspect of the players.
‘I think it was just an attitude change,’ Gait said. ‘Players challenging (each other) at halftime to step up and play lacrosse like they know how and stop worrying about this or that.
‘Just go out and play hard and take everything we’ve worked on and learned and just go do it instead of thinking about it.’
At the beginning of the game, the Orange hardly looked like a team capable of scoring like the team did in the second half. It struggled against the physicality of the Huskies.
‘I just think in the beginning, things weren’t really clicking that well,’ Tumolo said. ‘We definitely finished in the second half much better than the first.’
SU started the second half much better than the first, too. In the first six minutes, the goals piled up for SU like rapid fire. First came one by Holden not even two minutes into the half. Just more than a minute later, Catherine Rodriguez netted a goal. And at the 24:34 mark, Katie Webster added one of her own.
The tie game at the half was long gone. The onslaught had begun.
‘We realized we want to win so we need to make something work,’ Tumolo said. ‘Definitely in the second half we caught it, shot it, scored and everything opened up.’
The offense stepped up, and in turn SU improved to 2-0 in the Big East. Its first conference win came against Rutgers on March 26.
Senior goaltender Liz Hogan and Gait both agreed that the offense made strides to win the game in the second half.
‘Our middies and our attackers really rode hard,’ Hogan said.
The Orange turned the physicality into its favor. SU took advantage of UConn’s 21 turnovers, 16 of which came after halftime. They allowed the Orange offense to score at will in the second half.
Syracuse scored nine unanswered goals in the second, while the Huskies didn’t score until almost three quarters of the half was over. Tumolo, who had the most assists of any player in the game, assisted on two of those goals. Her three goals tied for a game-high and her command of the offense provided enough for SU to break out.
The 17 goals were the second-most for SU this season, and the most since its season-opener when it scored 19 against Colgate. Eleven of those came in that high-powered second half.
‘I think it was an increased energy level,’ Gait said. ‘We responded to the positive plays we made and fueled the energy. And I think it kept everybody going and really just created a run for us.’
A game that looked to be a defensive battle at the end of the first half ended up being an offensive showcase for Syracuse. And that didn’t surprise Tumolo.
‘We just saw the field more and everything went together,’ Tumolo said of the second half blowout. ‘We’ve just been practicing it, and when it’s there, it’s there.’
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