The Orange emphatically made a statement to the lacrosse community Sunday.
After scoring the game’s first seven goals, Syracuse cruised to a 15-9 victory over Virginia in the Carrier Dome. It was the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both squads.
The impressive victory over the perennially-powerful Cavaliers, who beat SU 17-12 a year ago, catapulted the Orange to the No. 1 spot in the updated Cascade/Maverik Media Poll. In an ultra- competitive series that dates back to 1938, Virginia and Syracuse sported 3-0 records coming into the contest. Virginia, which was no. 5 in the media poll, dropped to no. 7 in the new poll.
SU pestered Virginia’s inexperienced defensive unit with 50 shots as faceoff specialist Ben Williams again was the catalyst by taking 15-19 at the X.
The Cavaliers didn’t notch their first goal until less than four minutes remained in the first half. It was 12-4 after three quarters of play.
Coach John Desko credited his squad’s focus from the starting whistle that set the tone for the game.
“Any coach in the country would be please with that effort,” Desko reasoned. “I think our team was really well prepared.”
Williams, who also had 12 groundballs, appeared to suffer an upper body injury at the beginning of the fourth quarter and did not return to the game.
He is expected to be back on the field when Syracuse travels to Georgia March 7 to take on St. John’s.
Dom Starsia, the heralded Cavalier coach, admitted his squad was not good enough to match up against the Orange in the early season matchup.
Desko (five) and Starsia (four) have won nine national championships overall. The Virginia coach is the active Division I leader with 361 victories. Desko, who is currently ninth among active coaches, picked up his 202nd Sunday.
“We ran into an experienced buzz saw today,” Starsia said afterwards. “We never had the ball early in the game and that made a difference.”
Syracuse had eight players hit the back of the net in the game. Nicky Galasso paced the Orange with four goals while Kevin Rice and Dylan Donahue each had a hat trick. Tim Barber, Tom Grimm, Derek DeJoe, Jordan Evans and Paola Ciferri had one goal each.
“It was a team effort today,” said Galasso. “We moved the ball well.”
Galasso said the team’s weekly preparations were key, specifically the sometimes under-appreciated practice players.
“The scout team busted their butts all week to get us prepared for Virginia,” Galasso said. “They deserve a lot of the credit.”
Desko agreed and noted his team’s personnel allow the coaching staff to mirror the opponent’s strategies.
“We are fortunate to have the (roster) depth, “Desko said. “It’s kind of a luxury.”
Bobby Wardell, the senior goal keeper, was stellar in the cage again, matched his season high with 11 saves in the game.
While the rest of the lacrosse world painstakingly deals with the unseasonably nasty weather, Desko knows his team has an advantage to play in the Dome after practicing on the full-field at Manley Field House during the week.
Maybe that is why SU looks like a team in mid-season form.
“It felt like men against boys out there at times,” Starsia admitted.