Alexis Koval excels early for Syracuse in expanded role

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ In a 31-minute span on Sunday, Alexis Koval helped turn potential disaster for Syracuse into a much-needed win. With the Orange trailing Albany 1-0 and staring down a third consecutive loss, Koval assisted on the game-tying and go-ahead goals in the 53rd and 84th minutes.The assists gave Koval her sixth and seventh points of the season, more than double the number of points (three) she had in all of 2014. In her final season at Syracuse, she’s taking advantage of a regular starting role — one she’ll fill when SU (2-2) visits No. 25 Connecticut (3-0) on Thursday — after playing only sparingly last season.“She’s been exceptional in training and her performance in games has obviously been very good,” head coach Phil Wheddon said. “So she’s going to keep starting. Until someone outperforms her, she’s the go-to person.”After starting just three of 19 games last season and rarely producing in her limited action, Koval is one of nine players to have started all four games this season. She played the full 90 minutes against Providence on Aug. 23. On a team that returned 10 of 11 starters, Koval was forced to earn her starting spot, Wheddon said. So far, no one on the attack has been better than Koval. She’s been the primary catalyst on a team that, despite having been shut out twice, is generating more scoring opportunities than it did in 2014 by controlling possession, getting the ball into the penalty box and earning corner kicks. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textKoval’s seven points lead all SU players, with Maya Pitts and Stephanie Skilton tied for second with four apiece. In addition to her two assists against Albany, Koval had two goals and an assist in Syracuse’s season-opening 6-0 win over Massachusetts on Aug. 21. Wheddon said she’s been able to exploit space behind the outside backs and has had success isolating the backs in one-on-one situations, the latter of which Koval said she worked specifically on during Syracuse’s spring season. “I think that training really helped because coming into the games, that’s where I’ve been most successful,” Koval said. Koval added that the spring was generally helpful as it provided her a first look at how Syracuse would operate in 2015. And even though the Orange didn’t lose many players, Koval said she could tell immediately that it was a different team than the one that struggled to create chances last season, which she said gave her confidence in the offense.Against Connecticut on Thursday, Syracuse will likely need significant production from that offense if it expects to have a chance to win. Behind Rachel Hill, who has four goals in three games this season, the Huskies are averaging 3.3 goals per game in 2015.And if the past few games are any indication, Koval might be the Orange’s best hope at keeping pace with that high-powered attack.Said Wheddon: “Alexis has made the most of her opportunity. I’m thrilled for her.” Comments Published on September 2, 2015 at 8:30 pm Contact Michael: [email protected]last_img

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