Freshman Morgan Widner thriving as Syracuse’s new draw specialist
Ally Moreo | Photo Editor
Through five games, freshman draw control specialist Morgan Widner already has her name etched in the record book.
The 2016 Texas All-State honoree comes in on the heels of three record-breaking seasons set by Kailah Kempney (2014 and 2015) and Kayla Treanor (2016). In her first five career games, Widner has already landed herself in the Top 10 of No. 4 Syracuse’s (5-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) single-game and single-season record lists. She’s also No. 1 in the NCAA in draw controls per game, with 11.80.
“The first time I saw it, I called my mom.” Widner said, referring to her ranking. “I was like, ‘Mom, this is crazy.’”
Widner started taking draw controls her senior year of high school. She played most of her career as a defender until then, when she switched to attack. She developed a more offensive mindset after her coach asked her if she wanted to try the draw.
“My coach was like, ‘You want to try and do it?’” Widner said. “I was like, ‘I guess so,’ and together we came up with a technique. It is kind of working.”
In five games, Widner has recorded 59 draws, already sixth on Syracuse’s single-season draw control list. In the season opener, Widner notched the second-most draws in a single game in program history with 16.
“Just focus day by day, game by game,” Widner said. “Don’t think about records, don’t think about any of that — just play your game and hopefully it’ll turn out well.”
Kempney is the only other player in Syracuse history to hold the draw specialist title. Before Kempney joined SU, the draw specialist also played midfield or attack. But as a specialist, Widner can spend all of her practice time on bettering her technique and coming up with new ways to win the draw.
In Syracuse’s 13-12 victory over Albany on Monday, Widner spent only about five minutes of regulation on the field. That’s because her role is to take the draw, win it and get rid of the ball quickly before running off the field.
“We cutely named her MOGO instead of FOGO,” Syracuse head coach Gary Gait said. “She knows her role here. She is a draw specialist and at this point that is where she can help the team the most.”
Widner attributes much of her success to the midfielders. Their ability to box out helps give Widner the chance to win the draw with fewer sticks flying around.
“You get in front of the opponent that you’re next to,” junior defender Kathy Rudkin said. “You want to use your body and your speed to get there first, to be ready for a ground ball or to get back on defense if the other team wins it.”
While Widner ranks first in the nation in draw control wins per game, Syracuse’s 16.3 mark ranks only eighth. Later this season, Syracuse will face North Carolina and Harvard, who rank first and fifth, respectively. UNC draw specialist Sammy Jo Tracy’s 10 draw controls per game places second. As Syracuse’s competition amps up, Widner’s role will be amplified.
“She’s filling a desperate need,” Gait said, “and she’s doing a great job stepping in as our No. 1 draw person.”
Published on March 2, 2017 at 2:32 am
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