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Alyssa Murray has gone from feeder to scorer-- and Syracuse is thriving

Syracuse attack Alyssa Murray, of West Babylon, controls

Syracuse attack Alyssa Murray, of West Babylon, controls the ball . (Sept. 14, 2012) Credit: Michael Okoniewski for SU Athletic Communications

For Alyssa Murray, the college experience has been all about role reversal.

When the junior attack from West Babylon arrived at Syracuse in the fall of 2010, she was a premier passer joining a rising women's lacrosse program, while the Orange men's team was ranked No. 1 nationally.

Fast forward to the winter of 2013 and Murray is a premier scorer -- she led the nation in points (105) and goals (74) as a sophomore -- and the Orange women's team is ranked No. 1 in some polls while the men's team languishes outside the top 10.

"My role changed from high school -- from passer to scorer. I had hoped to be an impact player, but I may have surprised myself a little bit," said Murray, who in high school became New York's all-time leader in assists with 279 and also scored 284 goals. "I don't know if I envisioned myself as a leading scorer because I was more of an assistor."

The transformation from feeder to finisher coincided with Syracuse's rise from pretender to contender. Last spring, the Orange went 19-4 and reached the national championship game for the first time, losing, 8-6, at Stony Brook to seven-time champion Northwestern, which with Florida and Maryland will challenge Syracuse for the top spot this season. The Orange faces all three of those teams this year.

Murray helped Syracuse's 2013 campaign get off to a fast and early start on Jan. 13 with a 21-8 victory over Jacksonville, in which she scored three goals and added two assists.

"She's worked hard at becoming a scorer," Syracuse coach Gary Gait said. "She has an incredible desire to be successful, and because of that, she's had great results."

Murray recalled that as a freshman, "I struggled a bit but then last year it was drilled into my head to have that killer instinct: take it to the goal and bury my shot in the back of the net."

This season, she has added mobility to that devastating shot. "My cutting has gotten a lot better," Murray said. "In high school, I had the ball in my stick 90 percent of the time, but as a sophomore my off-ball play improved."

A point of emphasis was moving to the right -- not a political statement but a sporting one.

"I needed to get more multi-dimensional. I could always score goals cutting with my left hand but in fall and winter ball, I worked on scoring with my right hand," Murray said.

Murray's game has expanded along with that of the women's team on a campus where the men's team has dominated, with more national championships than any other Division I college lacrosse program.

"We have some friendly competition with the men's team, but usually we just support each other," Murray said. "It's definitely exciting to see what we've built. We had a disappointing season my freshman year. I knew it was going to be a challenge but I didn't know how difficult it would be. We had an idea we were better than that, but I didn't expect us to be as good as we were."

Now, she and her teammates, including starting goalie Alyssa Costantino of West Islip, have the same expectations as the preseason pollsters. "We deserve the top ranking," Murray said, "and we're just trying to get the ring this time."

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