Orange Watch: Syracuse jelling into national championship contender at right time

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With one game remaining before the start of post season play, Syracuse is playing its best lacrosse at exactly the right time

Item: This is the seventh season without a Syracuse lacrosse title since the 2009 team defended the ’08 squad’s championship in consecutive years at New England’s Gillette Stadium, and as the most ardent (or is it critical?) of SU lacrosse fans will remind you, the present streak is the longest stretch of time between championship celebrations since the ‘Cuse won its first of 11 “Gold Trophies” in 1983. So, is this the year the drought ends? Based on this past weekend’s second consecutive ACC championship featuring outstanding goalie play and team defense, an offense that showcased plenty of snipers who can score inside or out, arguably the best one or two faceoff specialists in the sport, and after 14 games thoroughly schedule-tested, the now No. 5 ranked Orange have as good a shot as anyone to get to the Final Four.

Whether it was backup Travis Solomon from the magical 1983 first champions, to Matt Palumb during the Gait Brothers era of 1988-90, to Chris Surran in 1993, Alex Rosier in 1995, Rob Mulligan in 2000, Jay Pfeifer in 2002 and ‘04, and lastly to John Galloway from 2008-09, a common theme on those Syracuse national championship teams was top notch goalie play in the net to counter balance what was usually a pretty high octane offense at the other end of the field featuring several All American players to torture an opponent’s “D.”

» Related: Syracuse defeats Duke to win second straight ACC Title

As this current 10-4 season has rounded into form following the out-of-character 10 goal blowout loss to Notre Dame April 2 in the Dome of all places, and on the weekend of the 100th season celebration to boot, followed by the Cornell shocker in OT at Ithaca 10 days later, following his most outstanding player in the tournament performances against North Carolina and Duke last weekend in suburban Atlanta, redshirt junior goalie Evan Molloy has stepped into the cage in the role of vocal leader, quick-handed shot blocker, and even into the scoring column with a beautiful half field pass for an assist in the ACC title game win over the Blue Devils.

“A lot of people wrote us off this year after a little rut there (the Notre Dame and Cornell defeats),” Molloy told the acc.com after finishing with 27 saves against UNC and Duke, and added the assist with a long fling to Dylan Donahue just past midfield late in the first quarter, and Donahue promptly ran straight towards the net before firing in his first goal of the day.

“But we proved everybody wrong once again and it feels great to go out there and get a win (ACC title).”

In five conference championship games going back to the final two years the Big East staged the event in 2012-13, and the three ACC seasons, SU has only lost once, to Notre Dame in the 2014 ACC title game, proving its resiliency against opponents that have plenty of information to game plan a familiar foe in what often times turns out to be one goal differentials or overtime finishes.

With one final game to tune up for the postseason against Colgate (4-9) Saturday at the Dome (1:00 p.m. ET / TWCS-ESPN3) before a likely first-round NCAA home game on Sunday evening May 15, and coming off back-to-back ACC titles, John Desko has been energized by his team’s turnaround and had a telling post-Duke game comment summarizing his reaction to how his team performed following an unexpected, nearly three hour weather delay that was out of anyone’s control.

“I was pleasantly surprised (by) the emotion (the players showed), Desko admitted to theacc.com, “I thought after sitting around for a few hours we’d be a little flat, but the guys came fired up and ready to play.”

That needs to continue to be the inside theme to end the seven season NCAA championship gap.

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Brad Bierman

About Brad Bierman

Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.
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