Syracuse struggling to find elite form

The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team simply can’t contend for a national title in 2012.

The Orange, 3-2 on the season, has gone against the elite and gone against the—well—average. It couldn’t compete with No. 1-ranked Virginia (8-0) or No. 2-ranked Johns Hopkins (7-0). It couldn’t put away either Army (3-5) or St. John’s (4-2).

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The only team Syracuse beat handily was Albany, now 0-6, in the season opener. And the Orange only played two good quarters in that game—outscoring the Great Danes 8-0 in the second and third.

We knew coming into the season there would be some growing pains as the team tried to recover from losing seven All-America seniors. No team, not even the reload-and-rebuild Orange, can lose that much talent and experience without some bumps and bruises.

So, what’s plaguing this group one-third of the way through the season? Too many things.

Redshirt sophomore Matt Lerman and sophomore Dominic Lamolinara have been serviceable, but not fantastic, in their first season of meaningful action in the net. Lerman has recorded a 9.85 goals against average, notching 33 saves while allowing 32 goals. Lamolinara has recorded a 9.71 goals against average, notching 17 saves while allowing 17 goals. That’s roughly three more goals allowed per game in 2011 by four-year starter and standout John Galloway.

A bigger concern, however, is the faceoff X, where Syracuse has surrendered 45.6 percent of their takes. That sounds decent, but against Johns Hopkins and Virginia, the Orange lost 33 of 48 faceoffs, giving already superior competition extra opportunities and extra chances against inexperienced goalies.

The past two games, Coach John Desko has even tried junior defenseman Brian Megill at the X. It worked against St. John’s, when Megill picked up 3 of 4 faceoffs, but not against Hopkins, when he went 0 for 2.

What’s most troubling is the largely disappointing offense, which was expected to be a strength for the Orange. Syracuse has only scored more than 10 goals once this season and that was against now-winless Albany. With young netminders, the Orange offense has to be better.

Syracuse is having particular trouble on man-up opportunities, scoring on just 8 of 22 chances. Its opponents have bested Syracuse by going 12 for 25.

Junior midfielder JoJo Marasco, keeper of the No. 22 jersey, and senior attack Tommy Palasek were two of the team’s top three scorers last year, but have struggled to pace the offense in 2012. The two have combined for just six goals and 14 assists.

The bright spots on attack have been sophomore Derek Maltz, who has registered 12 goals and four assists, and senior Tim Desko, who has notched nine goals and two assists.

The good news is the offense has a chance to break out in its next two games at home against BIG EAST foes Providence (1-3) on Wednesday and Villanova (4-3) on Sunday. The competition gets a little stiffer after that with tilts against top-12 ranked foes Duke, Princeton and Cornell.

Hopefully by then, Lerman and Lamolinara will be more comfortable and confident in the net, Coach Desko will find stability at the faceoff X and the offense gets untracked. That’s asking a lot, but this team has the emerging talent to find its groove. Whether the team will develop enough to compete with the best, like Virginia and Johns Hopkins, is another story.

There’s no sense in dancing around the issue. There’s always been the hope, almost expectation, that after basketball ends (perhaps a little early), the lacrosse team would keep title hopes alive until Memorial Day.

I just don’t see that happening this year. Too many pieces have to come together for Syracuse to survive until championship weekend.

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About Dan Brannigan 71 Articles
Dan is currently the editor of Common Ground magazine for Community Associations Institute (CAI) where he has won an Association Media & Publishing award for newswriting. Dan has also won a New England Press Association award while working for the The Inquirer and Mirror in Nantucket, Massachusetts, where he grew up. Dan is a 2005 Syracuse University graduate. Follow him on Twitter @djbranni.