WLAX : Syracuse opens Big East schedule with national elite distinction, heightened expectations

first_imgWhen Gary Gait arrived at Syracuse to coach the women’s lacrosse team, he was expected to do the same thing he had done at every other stop along the way. Win.Gait led the Orange to three national championships as an All-American attack at Syracuse, won three Major League Lacrosse and National Lacrosse League championships and guided the Maryland women’s team to seven national championships as an assistant coach.On Monday, SU took a major step toward fulfilling Gait’s goal to win a national championship, moving to No. 2 in both the IWLCA Coaches Poll and the deBeer Women’s Media Poll – the highest national ranking in program history.‘To date we don’t have a women’s NCAA champion that’s been on campus,’ the Syracuse head coach said, ‘and we’re looking to take care of business and make sure Syracuse women’s athletics take it to the next level.’Syracuse (4-2) begins Big East play Saturday at 1 p.m. against Connecticut (6-1) in Storrs, Conn., with a target on its back that comes along with being the highest-ranked team in the conference.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Orange’s spot in the rankings is a far cry from where it was a year ago. Last season, SU was just 2-5 and without a victory over a ranked team when Big East play opened.Now, Syracuse sits behind only defending national champion Northwestern in both national polls after knocking off three ranked teams in the season’s first two months. The early success gives the Orange a newfound swagger heading into conference play.‘The level of confidence is up,’ Gait said. ‘They’ve been able to win some of those close games against the best teams in the country, and it’s elevated our status and our level of confidence.’Still, SU doesn’t treat each specific game any differently knowing that every team will bring its best when it takes on Syracuse.Michelle Tumolo has been on both sides of success for the Orange. Last season, the SU attack played for a team without any expectations in the conference thanks to a slow start. Even with Syracuse’s early season successes, the junior says the team doesn’t treat games any differently.‘We know that we have a target on our back,’ Tumolo said. ‘Each game, no matter if its conference or out of conference, each game’s so important no matter if they’re ranked or unranked.’To do that, the Orange just keeps taking things one game at a time. Gait said one of the major reasons SU struggled early last season was that the team was focused too much on the big picture of the season as a whole.‘We need to stay grounded, focused and continue our clich of one game at a time,’ Gait said, ‘and I think that’s been one of the keys to our success so far.’That mentality has even rubbed off on Alyssa Costantino, who didn’t experience last year’s struggles firsthand.The SU goalkeeper was around last season when the team struggled out of the gate, but she was buried behind All-American Liz Hogan on the depth chart and was only able to watch as Syracuse struggled. In her first season of significant playing time, the only feeling the sophomore knows is that of a frontrunner because she has focused on one game at a time. The confidence that comes along with that feeling has helped to fuel her success on the field.‘It’s actually a great feeling going into Big East with so many wins,’ Costantino said. ‘You’re feeling more confident going in, and you’re kind of just like on top of the world.’The Huskies are the first team with an opportunity to knock the Orange from that No. 2 ranking, but Gait hopes they won’t be the last.With that ranking, SU will be facing the best efforts of every team it faces. And Gait hopes that only motivates his team the rest of the way.‘We talk about what great teams do, what championship caliber teams do and once you’re at this level you want even more every game, and that’s what’s going to drive you,’ Gait said. ‘Against these lower ranked opponents it’s more proving to yourself that you’re better than you were the day before, so that’s what we focus on, and hopefully that’s what will drive us through the next few games.’[email protected] Published on March 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact David: [email protected] | @DBWilson2 Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

World Cup: Road to the final

first_imgGroup stageFrance had a helping hand from the video assistant referee (VAR) in their World Cup opener and a dash of good fortune when Paul Pogba’s effort deflected off Australia’s Aziz Behich and into the net to seal a 2-1 win. A low-key 1-0 victory against Peru put them in a prime position to qualify and a 0-0 draw against Denmark ensured they topped their group.Last 16A 4-3 win against Lionel Messi’s Argentina was one of the standout matches of the tournament. Goals from Angel Di Maria and Gabriel Mercado cancelled out an early Antoine Griezmann penalty before Benjamin Pavard struck a wonderful equaliser and teenager Kylian Mbappe scored twice. A late Sergio Aguero goal was not enough to save Argentina.Quarter-finalFrance had far too much quality for a Uruguay side missing in-form forward Edinson Cavani, winning 2-0. Defender Raphael Varane headed France ahead towards the end of the first half and Griezmann scored thanks to a terrible error by goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.Semi-finalFrance knew they had a tough job on their hands to contain a Belgium side boasting Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku but for the second consecutive match they kept a clean sheet. Samuel Umtiti scored the winner in the second half from Griezmann’s corner to take the team through to their third World Cup final as 1-0 winners.CroatiaGroup stageLuka Modric scored a magnificent goal as Croatia crushed Argentina 3-0 © AFP/File / Martin BERNETTICroatia were one of only three teams in Russia to win all three of their group matches, beating Nigeria 2-0 in their opener and Iceland 2-1 in their final game. But their standout performance came in their second match, when they swept aside two-time winners Argentina 3-0 to make a huge statement of intent.Last 16Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic was the hero, saving three penalties in the shootout as Croatia squeezed past Denmark. Earlier, they had conceded a goal in the opening minute but hit back quickly to equalise through Mario Mandzukic. Luka Modric missed a penalty shortly before the end of extra-time but Croatia survived.Quarter-finalCroatia looked like they would have too much quality for a solid but limited Russia side but were again taken to extra-time and penalties. Goals from Andrej Kramaric and Domagoj Vida cancelled out a Denis Cheryshev opener but Croatia watched in agony as Mario Fernandes snatched a late equaliser. Ivan Rakitic struck the decisive penalty to send his side through to the semi-finals.Semi-finalCroatia were again forced to dig deep against England. Zlatko Dalic’s side looked in deep trouble after conceding a early goal in Moscow but regrouped to equalise midway through the second half. Despite dominating the second period they were unable to force a winner until deep into extra-time, when Mandzukic struck to break English hearts and win the match 2-1.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Griezmann scored the first penalty to be awarded by VAR in World Cup history against Australia © AFP/File / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEVMOSCOW, Russian Federation, Jul 14 – France play Croatia in the World Cup final at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday. Here is each team’s path to the showpiece match.Francelast_img read more