The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team can beat any team in the country. It just needs to stop falling into big deficits.
As the Orange begin postseason play on Friday against North Carolina, we know its offense can keep the team in any game. We know Ben Williams will win a majority of faceoff draws. We just need to know if the defense can make enough stops.
In the team’s two losses, both in ACC play, Syracuse had to rally out of sizable second-half holes. Against the Tar Heels on April 11, the Orange trailed by as many as seven points in the third quarter and faced a six-point deficit with about nine minutes left in the game.
Syracuse recovered, notching four goals in a row to close the game, but the comeback ran out of time, and the Orange lost 17-15.
Versus Notre Dame on March 28, Syracuse was losing 9-3 with 8:30 to go in the third quarter. The offense methodically chipped away at the lead and eventually overtook the Irish with little more than a minute on the clock. Notre Dame’s P.J. Finley won the ensuing faceoff, raced down the field and tied the score. The Orange finally fell 13-12 in double overtime.
These two losses were on the road against elite opponents—the Irish and Tar Heels are ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the country, respectively. Syracuse is No. 4.
With the ACC tournament beginning Friday at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., the Orange may get another crack at the Irish if it can beat the Tar Heels. The conference tournament winner is likely to finish with the top seed in the NCAA tournament. (Maryland is a contender for the No. 1 seed too.)
The attack combination of Kevin Rice, Dylan Donahue, Nicky Galasso and a hopefully healthy Randy Staats are hard to contain; they’ve helped lead the team to a 15.5 goals per game average—good for second in the country.
Meanwhile, Ben Williams is one of the top faceoff specialists in the country, winning just about 70 percent of his draws.
If junior defender Brandon Mullins can continue bottling up the opposing team’s best attackman, and senior goalie Bobby Wardwell can regain his early season form, the Orange will be poised to make a deep run into the NCAA tournament and challenge for its first national championship since 2009.