A few weeks before the start of her sophomore season at East Islip (New York) High School, Nicole Levy sat at the dinner table with her parents, discussing what her role was going to look like on the Redmen squad that upcoming year.Levy’s father, Steve — also her head coach at East Islip — told his family that Nicole was no longer going to be a scorer like she was growing up. Steve challenged his daughter to lead her team in assists, controlling possession and dodging by defenders to create chances for her teammates. Steve called her “a mini version of Kayla (Treanor).”“I knew that season that (dodging) was going to be her role,” Steve said. “Because we needed her to run the offense and be the quarterback.”Levy thrived at that position throughout high school, becoming the top-of-the-class dodger that No. 6 Syracuse’s head coach Gary Gait recruited two years ago. But Levy’s role changed in her first year with the Orange. Now, the sophomore attack finds herself yet again trying to become a dodger, and repeat for SU what she did in high school.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFor the Orange to replicate its prior postseason success, it’s crucial that Levy makes this adjustment. Coaches said she needs to transition from a shooter’s mentality to focus on her role as a creator at the head of SU’s attack.“Playing with a couple of All-Americans on the outside (last season), she utilized it and played that role perfectly,” Gait said of Levy. “She’ll be adapting to more of a playmaker and dodger this season.”Levy had always been the quarterback-type on offense, Steve said. She carried and dodged exceptionally well, efficiently distributing to her teammates. In her sophomore season at East Islip, Levy finished first in Suffolk County and second on Long Island in assists. She also finished first in Long Island in points, a further testament to her well-rounded game, Steve said.But when Levy arrived at Syracuse last year, she found herself behind established stars Treanor and Halle Majorana. Levy again adjusted her role to better suit the Orange offense, becoming an outside shooter and sidelining her dodging game for an entire season. Her outside shot is something Steve said she’s always had in her arsenal, but a facet of her game that was never forced to show itself until last season.“I think it was easy for me last year to be that shooter, because of that attention that (Treanor) and (Majorana) drew down low,” Levy said. “I didn’t have to dodge very much.”Levy thrived with her spot-up offensive mindset. The freshman grabbed national attention by posting 46 goals on the season, scoring at least one in 20 of the Orange’s 25 games. As Steve put it, it was “a perfect storm.” Nicole stepped back and said, “You guys dodge, I’ll shoot.”But after Treanor and Majorana graduated last year, Gait and Levy both knew what was next for the now-sophomore attacker. With no more offensive motors to pull the defenders away, a bulk of the defensive attention will now be placed on Levy. The sophomore will no longer be left open on the outside to shoot.“Having a quick step and more confidence is the biggest thing right now,” Levy said. “I struggled this fall (getting back into dodging) a lot, but I’ve gotten better.”A few times in the offseason, Levy called Treanor, now an assistant coach at Harvard. She asked for advice and words of encouragement as she drifted into the offensive-leader role. Levy said that, combined with her work with Treanor last season, she has learned some tricks of drawing defenders and leading the offense.One such method is how Treanor drew a double-coverage behind the net, then swung the ball to the middies who either found the open attack or ripped a shot themselves. If she can get herself double-covered, Levy knows that someone on the field will be open, and she’s willing to sacrifice her goals if it means assists and goals for the team.“(Dodging) is about understanding where and when, and the right time,” Gait said. “With (Levy), the biggest thing has been the mental focus of being in the moment the entire time on offense.”The offseason was filled with 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 drills for Levy, as the sophomore inched toward again becoming the dodger she was in high school. Levy has also been working with Majorana at practice, who stayed on the staff as a student assistant. It’s impossible to replace players like Treanor and Majorana, Steve said, but Levy has always had the ability to be an offensive distributor. Now, she needs to bring that ability to the forefront of her game.Just as it was in her high school tenure at East Islip, Levy said matter-of-factly that she won’t be the Orange’s leading goal scorer this season. Instead, she’s looking to play her new role, drawing defenders and finding open shooters around the net. She’s been working hard at improving her awareness and feeding and all other aspects of the position, Gait said, and now only time will tell if the sophomore is indeed prepared to lead the Orange offense.“She’s got to get back to being the aggressive dodger she was her whole career,” Steve said. “She’s still feeling it out, but I think she’ll be up for the task.”Banner photo by Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. 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