2022 NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 3 Syracuse (Women)

PHOTO BY RICH BARNES

First-year head coach Kayla Treanor won a national championship as Boston College's associate head coach in May.


The 2022 college lacrosse season is nearly upon us. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.

Check back to USALaxMagazine.com each weekday this month for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.

NO. 3 SYRACUSE

2021 Record: 17-4 (8-2 ACC)
Final Ranking (2021): No. 3
Coach: Kayla Treanor (1st season)

Sarah Cooper has started every one of the 47 games she’s played for Syracuse women’s lacrosse since 2019. The senior from Lutherville (Md.), a 2022 Preseason USA Lacrosse Magazine first-team All-American selection, has stymied some of the collegiate game’s most dynamic scorers and collected the second-most ground balls per game in the ACC last spring. At practice, she’s often tasked with slowing down a myriad of stars from Emily Hawryschuk to Sam Swart to Meaghan and Emma Tyrrell, among others.

This fall, however, there was one member of the Syracuse lacrosse community that Cooper expressed relief she didn’t have to face in 1-v-1 drills.

“No, thank God,” she said with a laugh when asked if she had matched up with Kayla Treanor, the Orange’s first-year head coach. “That would be bad for me.”

Treanor’s distinguished playing career precedes her. The four-time All-American, who starred this summer in Athletes Unlimited and whose creative flair has helped inspire a generation, graduated in 2016 as Syracuse’s all-time leading scorer. She remains in the top spot. She navigated a similar ascent through the coaching ranks, first as an assistant at Harvard, then at Boston College. Last Memorial Day Weekend, Treanor, the Eagles’ associate head coach, secured a feat she fell short of achieving as a player. Winning a national championship.

Few could list Treanor’s accolades at her alma mater as well as Kyle Fetterly. The head equipment manager for Syracuse Athletics since 1983, he’s been described as “the man who knows everything about ‘Cuse lax.” He has enough stories about the program to take up several volumes. He witnessed the Air Gait during the 1988 NCAA semifinals and was at practice the Wednesday before when Gary Gait foreshadowed the now iconic move that left the coaching staff pondering if it was legal.

Fetterly also played a part in the search committee for the first Syracuse women’s head lacrosse coach back in 1997. The finalists included a 25-year-old by the name of Kelly Amonte. In Fetterly’s telling, the other members of the committee deemed the former four-time All-American at Maryland too young at the time to take over. Amonte, now Amonte Hiller, got the opportunity to start another program, this time at Northwestern in 2001. She’s won seven NCAA championships with the Wildcats since.

“Gary, in my opinion, this is Kelly Amonte 2.0,” Fetterly said he told Gait, the head of the Syracuse women’s team since 2007, once he heard about Gait’s move to lead the men’s team. “Go get Kayla Treanor.”

NIKE/USAL PRESEASON TOP 20
TEAM PREVIEWS

1. Boston College

2. North Carolina

3. Syracuse

4. Northwestern

5. Stony Brook

6. Maryland

7. Notre Dame

8. Duke

9. Loyola

10. Florida

11. Virginia

12. James Madison

13. Princeton

14. Stanford

15. Denver

16. Rutgers

17. Drexel

18. Jacksonville

19. UConn

20. Penn

The Orange did. Chief among athletic director John Wildhack’s criteria for Gait’s successor was a coach that had been to and won a national championship game.

“I thought she was the one that had the level of experience that would help this program win its first national championship,” Gait said. “That’s where Kayla separated herself from those other coaches.”

“A lot of people ask is this something that you dreamed of, but it really never was because I never thought it would be possible,” Treanor said in December. “So, [I’m] just sort of taking it in every day and just trying to enjoy it.”

The team Treanor and BC defeated in the national championship game last May seems like it has all the pieces in place to contend for another Memorial Day Weekend run. Add in the returns of Emily Hawryschuk and Megan Carney, who both sustained ACL tears last spring, and the Orange could prove to be a nightmare for any defense. Syracuse’s number of offensive options made a practice on a Wednesday last October feel like an All-Star game, but with a healthier dose of defense. Treanor’s primary focus this fall was building chemistry both on and off the field. Each practice began with a speech from a member of the team. The talks often proved deeply personal in nature.

“We got to actually understand that we’re not just players, and we’re not just midfielders, attackers or defenders,” Swart said. “We got to know each other on a deeper level. We’ve never done that at Syracuse before, and it really helped getting people out of their comfort zones. That's going to make us a better team.”

The biggest questions will likely surface the defensive end after the graduations of Ella Simkins and Kerry Defliese, along with Syracuse’s all-time saves leader Asa Goldstock, who started all 22 games in cage Treanor’s senior year. Defensive coordinator Caitlin Defliese will continue to guide the unit.

This week the Orange suffered a major loss on the offensive end after sophomore Emma Ward announced she will be sidelined for the entire season with a lower leg injury. Without knowing it, Ward, who put up 43 goals and 30 assists last spring, earlier this month expressed a confidence in her team’s ability to weather such an absence. She took to Twitter after Tari Kandemiri, aka Official Lax Girl, posted a list of players to watch in 2022. Ward made the list but spotted a few notable absences.

“Don’t forget about the Tyrrell’s,” she wrote along with two orange emojis.

“You’re right!!” Kandemiri replied. “A whole super squad, can’t wait to cheer you all on!”






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TOP RETURNERS

Emily Hawryschuk, A, Gr.

The Orange’s leading goal scorer each season from 2018-20, Hawryschuk tore her ACL in practice after the Orange’s season opener last spring. “I couldn’t imagine finishing out my collegiate career anywhere but here with my Orange family,” Hawryschuk wrote in a statement on April 21, 2021, announcing her return for a sixth season. Fully healthy with a full slate of games ahead, she has the potential to eclipse Treanor’s all-time program goals record.

Sarah Cooper, D, Sr.

Cooper recorded a career high in ground balls (48) and tied her career-best with 33 caused turnovers in 2021 to earn IWLCA first-team All-American honors. The cerebral lockdown defender who’s started every game since 2019 when she was named ACC Freshman of the Year will be relied upon even more with the graduations of Ella Simkins and Kerry Defliese.

Meaghan Tyrrell, A, Sr.

Tyrell’s 112 points last spring ranks third all-time in program history. The senior out of Mount Sinai (N.Y.) put up 26 in four NCAA tournament games, and along with her younger sister, Emma, accounted for 45 of the Orange’s postseason points. “She really stepped up and did a great job of having ownership over the offense this fall,” Treanor said. 

KEY ADDITIONS

Kimber Hower, G, RS-Jr. and Delaney Sweitzer, G, Jr.

Replacing a program’s all-time saves leader is no small task, but the Orange have several options to fill the crease that Asa Goldstock had commanded since 2016. Added to that mix are a pair of transfers. Hower, the first transfer Treanor brought in after she returned to her alma mater, appeared in eight games for North Carolina last season in relief of Tewaaraton Award finalist Taylor Moreno and compiled a 57.1 percent save percentage. Sweitzer made one start at USC last spring and finished with a 8.65 GAA in 83 minutes of playing time. They competed throughout the fall with grad student Hannah Van Middelem and sophomore Tate Paulson. “It’s going to be a battle to play, but whoever is out there is a really, really good goalie,” Treanor said in December.

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE

Sierra Cockerille, M, Sr.

Despite tallying 22 goals and 28 assists last spring, Treanor said Cockerille “still totally flies under the radar.” During the World Lacrosse Super Sixes event last October, Cockerille shined playing against several of her Syracuse teammates. She registered seven goals and four assists in four games for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy team. “She’s an unbelievable midfielder and is going to be a key for us come this spring,” Treanor added.

ENEMY LINES

What rival coaches say about the Wildcats:

“Treanor has proved herself as a coach and being back at her alma mater is a seamless fit.”

“They have a lot of flash and an aura about them.”

BEYOND THE BASICS
POWERED BY LACROSSE REFERENCE

10%

The third-best team in the ACC in 2021 probably wins the national title in most other years. The conference was that stacked. Depth was a huge key for the Cuse offense last year, and they’ll be even deeper with Emily Hawryschuk back. In 2021, Syracuse was the only team to have at least four players generate at least 10 percent of their team’s assists and six players take at least 10 percent of their team’s shots. That’s depth. — Zack Capozzi

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