Since Syracuse won its first NCAA National Championship in 1983, the Orange has missed the NCAA tournament just once (2007).
The 2012 lacrosse team nearly had that dubious distinction this year, as it had a uneven and frustrating season before getting knocked out by Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The Orange simply didn’t have enough firepower to compete with Virginia or Johns Hopkins in early non-conference matchups, and after a 11-10 loss to Villanova at the Carrier Dome—its first loss in Big East play since it started in 2010—the Orange looked like they were in serious trouble.
Though SU showed signs of its potential, including a 19-6 win against Rutgers in the ESPNU Warrior Classic, Syracuse lost its final two games of the season to Georgetown and Notre Dame to fall to 7-7 (3-3 Big East). It meant that the Orange would need to win the Big East tournament to secure an automatic qualifying bid.
Playing on Villanova’s home field, the Orange exacted revenge for their Big East loss, throttling the Wildcats 15-6. SU avoided Notre Dame in the finals after the Irish were upset by St. John’s and Syracuse took full advantage, cruising to a 12-4 win.
But the Orange couldn’t ride the momentum into the NCAA tournament. Although the Orange played Duke even through the early part of the second half, the Blue Devils scored five of six goals and eliminated the Orange, 12-9.
The Orange struggled at the faceoff X, losing 7-of-24 faceoffs. Duke found holes at the top of Syracuse’s zone and exploited them for six goals in the third period. With fewer offensive opportunities, JoJo Marasco was held scoreless for the first time in 25 games.
The game was a microcosm of Syracuse’s struggles all year.
WHAT WE SAID:
A concern is the faceoff X, where Syracuse has surrendered 45.6 percent of their takes. That sounds decent, but against Johns Hopkins and Virginia, the Orange lost 33 of 48 faceoffs, giving already superior competition extra opportunities and extra chances against inexperienced goalies. The past two games, Coach John Desko has even tried junior defenseman Brian Megill at the X. It worked against St. John’s, when Megill picked up 3 of 4 faceoffs, but not against Hopkins, when he went 0 for 2. — Dan Brannigan
Sunday’s Selection Show revealed that the two future ACC rivals will meet again on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The difference in this rematch is that it features a very different Orange team than the one that fell to Duke in April. One of the most obvious differences is between the pipes. Dominic Lamolinara got the start in the first meeting. He made 10 saves and gave up 12 goals. He struggled in the second quarter, giving up six. The goalkeeper is a crucial player in the team’s momentum during a game. When the Orange scored a goal, Lamolinara needed to make a big save on the other end but he rarely did. That’s why Syracuse could never make a big run to take the lead. — Ben Glidden
WHAT THEY SAID:
Finishing the season with a 9-8 overall record, I suppose the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse team should feel glad to have qualified for the 2012 NCAA Tournament at all. Of course, anyone who’s been a fan of Syracuse lax for more than a year will tell you that such thinking isn’t good enough for this program. So, when we look back on the 2012 season, which ended today with a 12-9 loss to the Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, we hope that it’s merely another roadbump on the continued road to championships and not the harbinger of parity to come. — Sean Keeley, SB Nation
A lot hinges on how they face off and actually break defenses down, but I saw firsthand on Saturday when [junior] Brian Megill was facing off as a close defender, he gave that team a completely different look because Syracuse hasn’t just struggled on the faceoffs. Syracuse has struggled mightily picking up any type of 50-50 loose ball off the faceoff. A telling stat to me was that a guy like [sophomore faceoff specialist] R.G. Keenan from North Carolina going into this weekend has 76 groundballs. Syracuse’s top two faceoff men [sophomores Chris Daddio and Ricky Buhr] combined had 25 groundballs. They’re just not in the mix from a faceoff standpoint. — Paul Carcaterra, ESPNWesley Cheng