The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team answered one of the biggest questions it will face throughout the 2011 campaign after defeating Denver 13-7 at the Carrier Dome to open the season: Will the Orange offense be deep enough after losing its top two points leaders from last year?
On Sunday against the No. 13 Pioneers, it was.
No. 2 Syracuse scored six times in the opening quarter and never trailed.
Senior Steven Keough and sophomore JoJo Marasco — the backbone of the Orange offense — notched two goals and two assists each. More importantly, Syracuse received support from its secondary contributors. Redshirt junior Tim Desko and senior midfielders Jovan Miller and Josh Amidon scored two goals apiece.
“Much like we’ve had the last few years, we have had different guys step up in different games,” SU head coach John Desko said to reporters after the game. “Instead of just relying on one person to score five or six goals, we have been able to hurt people with a bunch of guys scoring one, two, or three goals per game. We like to share it, and I think we are pretty unselfish offensively.”
With three senior first-team All-Americas returning from a unit that led the nation in scoring defense (7.4 goals allowed per game) in 2010, the defense will keep the Orange in games all year. But new scoring threats need to emerge to secure a 12th national championship in May. Keough has led Syracuse in goals the past two seasons, but he lost key contributors Cody Jamieson and Chris Daniello on attack. Jamieson (28 goals, 13 assists) and Daniello (28 goals, 25 assists) led the Orange in points in 2010.
Marasco, the newly appointed wearer of the fabled No. 22 jersey, and Desko, the coach’s son, will need to create opportunities and find the net when defenses collapse on Keough. The duo succeeded on Sunday.
The Orange defense flexed its muscles against Denver and proved just how strong it can be. Senior goalie John Galloway recorded eight saves and senior close defenseman John Lade held Denver’s top offensive threat, Alex Demopoulos, to just one assist.
“We worked all week long on not ball watching,” Lade said to reporters after the game. “I just tried to keep my head on a swivel and watch him (Demopoulos) off-ball as much as possible. I am surprised how much they didn’t give him the ball to dodge because he is one of their best dodgers.”
It was the 12th straight game Syracuse held its opponent to fewer than 10 goals.
X marks the spot
Syracuse won 17 of the game’s 24 faceoffs as senior Jeremy Thompson had a career best 11-for-14 performance. The Orange won 10-of-11 draws in the second and third quarters. The faceoff dominance led to several transition goals and, combined with 15 Denver turnovers, a 50-26 shot advantage for the Orange.
Time for revenge
Syracuse hosts Army on Feb. 27 at the Dome in a rematch of last year’s NCAA tournament first round. The Orange lost to the Black Knights 9-8 in double overtime. Army is 1-1 on the season. It lost to UMass 8-5 and beat the Virginia Military Institute 12-5.