With only one week left until the start of the regular season, the seventh-ranked Syracuse men’s lacrosse team answered a lot of questions with their performance against No. 10 Brown. It was only a scrimmage, but there were some key points to take away from the game.
The Orange offense is more than just Dylan Donahue
Donahue is still clearly the focal point, but ‘Cuse has some other weapons it can rely on. A name you could be hearing a lot this season is Jordan Evans. The junior attackman scored two impressive goals in the fourth quarter and says he is feeling more comfortable in the offense. The Orange also got good mileage out of Tim Barber, Nick Mariano and Nick Piroli as well; with each of them scoring. The most telling sign though was that the Orange tallied five second-half goals without Donahue on the field. “It doesn’t really matter who is out there for our offense,” Evans said. That sentiment is proving to be right.
The defense needs to clean things up
While the offense showed promise, the defense showed some holes. The Orange had a solid day defensively, only allowing 10 goals to a very talented Brown team, but a pair of those goals were due to Syracuse mistakes. Fifth-year defenseman Brandon Mullins cost ‘Cuse a goal when he got pinned deep in his own territory and lobbed a ball right in front of the net. Brown intercepted the hanging pass and slotted it home uncontested. Later the Bears hit Syracuse on the break and the Orange defense left an attacker unattended in front net for the easy score. These were just two plays but it certainly caught Syracuse head coach John Desko’s attention. “Defense has to be our strength,” he said. “They need to make fewer mistakes going into the season.” Considering too that every game ‘Cuse lost last year was by two goals or fewer, these mistakes can make the difference in a game. Nothing to panic about, but those types of errors show that the Orange backline still has some kinks to iron out.
Nick Mariano, Nick Mellen and Nick Piroli are all impact players
The Orange lost a lot of talent via graduation last year, but managed to lessen the blow with the addition of these three Nicks. Mariano and Prioli are transfers from UMass and Brown respectively. Both of them scored today in attack and seem to be developing very well in this Orange system. “[Piroli] knows the offense better than anyone,” Donahue said. These guys are picking up things quickly and should be key contributors on offense. As for Mellen, he is a freshman playing alongside two very experienced players. “They kind of take me under their wing,” said Mellen, referring to Mullins and senior defenseman Ralph D’Agostino. Mellen knows there is still work to do, but he also knows where to focus. “We have to work on communication,” he said. “I’m definitely lagging a bit in that department.” All three players are adjusting to a new environment and system, but they will be doing it while playing major minutes for the Orange.
Patience is key in attack
Waiting your turn is hard, and the Orange know it is something it needs to work on. Desko, Donahue and Evans all cited off-ball patience as something that was sloppy and needed improvement heading into next week’s game against Sienna. Cuse’s offense looked its best Saturday when it held onto the ball and continued to wait for an open look. On several attacks, the Orange only took one shot, but that was because it scored on its first attempt. “We got a little ways to go,” Evans said. The offense looks effective, but there is still room for improvement.
This team is still building
Cuse will improve as the season rolls on, but it will not be at full potential come their first game. “We would love to have one more practice round,” Desko said. “This team lacks experience.” Even Donahue is not at full strength yet. The Orange rested him in the second half of the scrimmage and Desko thought Donahue looked a little “rusty.” However, things are trending in the right direction according to Desko and Donahue. “We got better from last week,” Donahue said. Each week presents Syracuse an opportunity to gain more experience.
The Orange open its 2016 campaign Feb. 13 against Siena in the Carrier Dome.