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Syracuse women's lacrosse coach Gary Gait.
Syracuse women's lacrosse coach Gary Gait. (P Photo/The Post-Standard, Jim Commentucci)

Syracuse opened its season with two games Saturday, something that had never been done in women's lacrosse, though Orange coach Gary Gait took the idea from an old tradition.

"It's actually almost old school," Gait said. "When I started coaching at Maryland (as an assistant women's coach), we used to play a varsity game and a JV game and this is just a slight change to it — and the fact that they're both real games. Other than that, it's a very similar idea to the old varsity-JV games."

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The No. 3 Orange defeated No. 19 Denver, 18-10, in a noon game and then came back to the Carrier Dome at 7:30 p.m. to beat Canisius, 21-13. They'll do it again Sunday, with Canisius returning to the Dome at noon and Presbyterian coming in for a 7:30 game.

The NCAA allows just "17 dates of competition" during the regular season, but it puts no stipulation on how many games can be played on one of those dates. Gait decided a couple of doubleheaders would maximize early-season playing time for his athletes before they hit a three-game stretch beginning Feb. 23 that includes two Atlantic Coast Conference rivals, No. 8 Virginia and No. 7 Boston College.

"The players loved it," said Gait, who played 41 women in the Canisius game. "It's a chance for some young kids to get some playing time. The next game after this weekend is Virginia, a tough one, so instead of having 20 minutes of playing time, some young players are now getting 40-60 minutes of playing time before they get to a game like Virginia."

If Syracuse makes it to the ACC final and the NCAA final as it did last season, it would play 26 games, the most ever by a Division I women's lacrosse program. The Orange finished 21-3 last season after falling to Maryland in the NCAA final.

Terps set to open title defense

Defending national champion Maryland will try to win its ninth-straight season opener Sunday at William & Mary. The No. 1 Terps have lost just four season openers in the past 25 years, three times to Duke and once to Northwestern. In 41 years the Terps have won 32 openers.

Against the Tribe, the Terps have an all-time record of 22-6, but they have won 16 straight, including 19-3 last season.

Maryland plays its first home game on Feb. 21 vs. No. 2 North Carolina, the only team that beat the Terps last season.

Navy defense shines again

Navy's defense held 15 of 17 opponents under 10 goals last season and, with three of four starters back, the Midshipmen proved they could be equally as stingy this season.

The Mids held Longwood to just 11 shots in the season-opening 17-2 victory Sunday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Twelve players caused turnovers, including Loren Generi, who had three and also contributed three goals and three assists. Goalie Annie Foky, in her first game after missing the last six games of 2014with a torn ACL, had five saves.

Last season, the Mids allowed just 6.53 goals per game, the third-lowest average in Division I. Navy is 85-0 when it keeps opponents under nine goals.

The Mids defense will face a big test Sunday when they travel to No. 6 Duke. Navy lost to the Blue Devils, 10-5, in their last meeting in the 2013 NCAA tournament second round. The Mids are 0-2 vs. Duke.

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Coppa back in form for North Carolina

North Carroll graduate Brittney Coppa sat out last season after tearing an ACL, but the fifth-year senior is making the most of her return, contributing four goals and an assist to the No. 2 Tar Heels' 17-11 win over No. 4 Florida Saturday.

Coppa, who tore the ACL in an exhibition game against the U.S. national team in preseason last year, had surgery to repair the tear and is back as one of the key players in a loaded North Carolina midfield.

"Last year was hard for me, I had to learn how to lead from the sideline and that wasn't something I was used to," Coppa said in a news release. "It took a lot for me to accept that I was injured and I had a lot of time to really think about my life and lacrosse, and I wasn't even sure if I was going to redshirt at one point."

Coppa scored the first goal of the season for the Tar Heels in their 13-9 win over James Madison on Feb. 1. She has six goals and an assist and put 100 percent of her shots on goal for the Tar Heels (2-0), which play High Point at home Friday.

Quick hits

This is the 40th season of Johns Hopkins women's lacrosse and the 20th season for North Carolina and Duke. … Navy is 7-1 in home openers after the win over Longwood Sunday. … Two of eight games involving Top 20 teams last weekend were decided in overtime — No. 5 Northwestern over USC, 12-11, and No. 17 Johns Hopkins over Marquette, 8-7. … Twin River Hill graduates Jenna and Julia Collins combined for five goals and an assist in their first game for Navy.

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