Flipping a switch has helped Nicole Levy become one of the Orange’s most valuable players

first_imgMotivating Nicole Levy started with a white, plastic light switch — one her dad picked up from The Home Depot for about 67 cents one day on his way to lacrosse practice.Steve Levy’s team had just lost a big game, and they needed inspiration and a win for a shot at the playoffs. Standing in front of his gathered team, Steve brought out a box. Some players laughed off the switches as a tacky gimmick, Nicole remembered. She didn’t.Steve knew his daughter would buy in. She carries around signed Wayne Gretzky memorabilia because he got points like she wanted to. She loves game day texts of inspirational quotes from her mom, Kim. She has a lunchbox Steve gave her as a reminder of the mentality she needed to be great.But the light switch she keeps bagged on the sideline — the same one she always flips from “off” to “on” before stashing it in her right sneaker and stepping onto the field — came first.“I needed her to commit to this two hours a day,” Steve said. “Flip (the switch). Don’t think about lacrosse after (practice). Go live your life. But for the time on the field, you need to become the most intense person you can become.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe shy, quiet freshman has carried that attitude from East Islip (New York) High School to Syracuse, where she slid into the right attack position and thrived almost immediately. In her freshman season, she’s posted at least one point in all but one of SU’s 21 games. In the first two games of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament alone, she poured in seven goals.Her proficiency as one of the top options in No. 5 SU’s (16-5, 4-2 Atlantic Coast) high-powered offense will be crucial to the Orange’s success following a loss to North Carolina in the ACC final. Syracuse will learn its NCAA tournament seeding on Sunday, May 8 at 9 p.m. Before then, SU will finish a previously suspended game with Canisius College on Tuesday. Six minutes remain in a 10-10 tie.“Right before warm-ups, that’s when I flip the switch,” Levy said. “I’m not worried about who’s in the stands or anything. Nothing else matters.”Hannah Wagner | Staff PhotographerFew teammates knew about the switch initially. Levy didn’t tell many people, but she saw her act of flipping the switch as getting the entire team into a serious mindset. As teammates found out, they may have questioned it, Levy said, but she didn’t feel judged. Everyone has their superstitions, she said, and some teammates, like redshirt freshman Jackie Hingre, even tried to flip the switch for her.“A lot of people say, ‘Can I flip it for you?’” Levy said. “I say, ‘No. You cannot touch it.’ No one else can flip it.”She had trouble fully switching her play at first. She got nervous, SU head coach Gary Gait said, which led to poor shooting early in the season. She got in her own head, Levy said, and started over-thinking. Redshirt senior Gabby Jaquith practiced shooting with the freshman. Levy brought the switch with her. It’s always on when she puts in extra work in Ensley Athletic Center. She doesn’t have to be there, but is, slinging 50 to 100 shots each time.After a goalless first two games, she’s posted 42 in the ensuing 19 contests, good for the second-highest total on a team with multiple established veterans and reigning All-Americans.Levy, who’s scored multiple goals in 11 of her last 13 games, credits her change in role as the key to her success. She isn’t dodging or rolling as much as she used to in high school. She’s drifting out to the 8-meter arc and becoming a sniper, which she’d never done before. Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on May 2, 2016 at 8:32 pm Contact Sam: [email protected] | @Sam4TRcenter_img Despite the new job, she’s using the same tools. In high school, she honed her unorthodox, low-to-high shot on some of Long Island’s best goalies, male and female, at a training facility. She’s still shooting, just from a different spot. And even when she’s not shooting, Levy draws shooting space fouls and earns free positions. That’s where she capitalizes.“Sometimes I hear opposing teams say, ‘You know where she’s shooting,’” Levy said. “They think I’m shooting high, so I’ll play games with the goalie.”As she draws back across her body, Levy keeps her left shoulder up, giving the appearance she’ll try high again. But then she uncoils and keeps her stick low. More often than not, she’ll sneak it past the goalie’s legs. Through four games, her shooting percentage rested at .222 but has now spiked to over .500.“She’s a player that no one sees that often,” assistant coach Michelle Tumolo said. “Shooting sidearm like a guy from the 8-meter and ripping them high and ripping them low? It’s hard for people to stop.”Levy’s hit bumps this season too. She felt “devastated” for the first time this season, Steve said, when Syracuse fell to No. 3 North Carolina, 12-11, in a game for first place in the ACC. Out of the same offensive set which had bred so much success, she hit two posts and pushed a potential game-tying goal wide against the Tar Heels. The same team snapped her 12-game goal streak two weeks later in the ACC championship.Yet the routine Levy maintains — the light switch, the text messages and an elastic band on her right leg that she began wearing in fourth grade because it looked cool — helps her weather the storms.Steve has a new knickknack for Nicole this season. He urges her to carry around a stop watch. It’s how he reminds his daughter to value each moment she spends on the field.“You have a very small number of games in your career,” he told her. “Every second that ticks off that game clock is one you’ll never get back.” Commentslast_img read more