Draw specialist Morgan Widner struggles in win over Cornell
Colin Davy | Asst. Photo Editor
Syracuse draw specialist Morgan Widner stood at midfield, stick crossed with Cornell’s Catie Smith as the referee nestled the ball between the two stick heads. The Big Red was holding a one-goal lead just over one minute into the game, an eventual 11-8 SU win Tuesday night inside the Carrier Dome. Widner ripped the draw from Smith’s stick head, running a loop around the 50-yard line before cascading onto the Cornell defense as she cradled the ball above her head.
She spun past Smith, then dodged by two more Big Red defenders, before a 20-yard hole opened up between Widner and Cornell goalie Renee Poullott. Players on the SU sideline jumped in the air as Widner edged closer to the net, and one fan from behind the Cornell bench yelled, “Wide open, someone cover her!”
But right as Widner flung her stick forward, the ball slipped out of the head and trickled into the head of Poullott’s stick. As the goalie scooped up the weak shot and redirected it back out into play, Widner turned and sprinted back to the sideline.
She had done her job — grabbing the draw control for SU and efficiently gaining possession — but had blatantly missed an open shot that could have tied the game early on.
Widner had a rough night for the Orange on Tuesday, leading the team with four turnovers despite winning a game-high seven draw controls. SU struggled alongside her in the first half, but a re-energized effort in the second helped the No. 8 Orange (13-4, 5-1 Atlantic Coast) hold off No. 11 Cornell (10-3, 5-0 Ivy), 11-8, in the Carrier Dome.
Widner wasn’t made available for comment after the game.
Halfway through the first half, Widner made another err in the middle of the field, winning the draw control but throwing a quick pass right to a Cornell midfielder a few feet away. As the midfielder sprinted into the Big Red’s attacking third, Widner turned and fled off the field.
Catherine Ellis scored for Cornell on the same offensive drive less than a minute later, and the Big Red jumped out to a two-goal lead over the Orange with just over 16 minutes to play in the half.
Again, Widner had done her job in winning the draw. But again, she had failed in finding an open teammate, and nearly directly caused a Big Red goal.
“It wasn’t (Morgan’s) best day today,” SU head coach Gary Gait said. “You just have to work with her to get her head up and move the ball, and that’s one thing is Cornell is really tenacious. They’re gonna work hard to get that check.”
With just under 10 minutes left in the first half, Gait pulled Widner from the game, opting to give backup Julie Cross a chance to win more possessions for the Orange. Widner didn’t re-enter until 12 minutes into the second half, after SU had pulled out of the tight game and had a three-goal lead on the Big Red.
Widner grabbed a couple of key draw controls in the final quarter of the game, when the Orange pulled away from Cornell. But the work to earn the lead had been largely done by Cross, and Widner simply had to hold onto it for the remainder of the game.
“She got back in there and got us some key draw controls at the end,” Gait said. “She just stepped up and said ‘I’m good to go,’ and so I put her back in.”
Gait didn’t say whether Widner would still be the Orange’s starting draw specialist Saturday, when SU heads down to Louisville. He did say there wasn’t anything off with her game.
“(Widner) just wasn’t feeling that well today,” Gait said. “(Cornell) doesn’t let you rest out there, and they ride really hard. But when we needed her, she came through, and that’s all that matters.”
Published on April 19, 2017 at 10:16 pm
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