Syracuse lacrosse margin gets slimmer after poor start to season

Syracuse lost its first game of the season

The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team can’t afford the kind of lapses and mistakes it made during its season-opening 16-15 double overtime loss to Albany at the Carrier Dome on Sunday. The margin of error is too slim.

One game does not make—or break—a season, but after a disappointing 2012 campaign and the typical grueling schedule, Syracuse needed to get off to a better start in 2013.

Fittingly, a better start against Albany may have prevented the Orange’s first loss to the Great Danes in 11 games and first loss in a season opener since 1996. Albany scored four unanswered goals to open the game on the way to a 5-2 first-period advantage; it also outshot Syracuse 14-5.

Syracuse lost its first game of the season

The Orange seemed to be let down by the team’s supposed strength: the defensive unit. Led by preseason first-team All America senior Brian Megill, the team was ripped apart by Albany’s Thompson trio (brothers Lyle and Miles and cousin Ty). The three players accounted for 10 goals and eight assists.

» Related: Syracuse drops season opener to Albany

It was promising, however, to see Syracuse improve its efficiency at faceoffs and operate a dynamic offense—two elements the team has struggled with in recent seasons. Junior Chris Daddio won 20 of 33 faceoffs, a much better win percentage (60.6 percent) compared to last year’s team average (46.4 percent).

Meanwhile, the Orange outshot Albany 47-45 and saw 10 players notch at least a goal. Senior JoJo Marasco, owner of the No. 22 jersey, had a particularly strong game by tallying three goals and five assists—the first time a Syracuse player has registered eight points in a game since Kenny Nims in 2009 against Providence.

Marasco succeeded Sunday in drawing the Albany defense and creating opportunities for his teammates. He’s going to need to keep doing that and find more consistent and more involved help from the attack and midfield. Marasco and the Orange need another go-to guy, someone who can dodge and create opportunities.

Coach John Desko thought he had that guy in North Carolina star transfer Nicky Galasso before losing him to an injury in the preseason. Now, the team needs one of the following to step up: sophomore Kevin Rice, redshirt freshmen Dylan Donanue and Eric DeJohn and juniors Billy Ward and Pat Powderly. Each has shown the ability to help junior captain Derek Maltz, the team’s returning lead goal-scorer, find the back of the net.

It won’t be an easy task to improve upon last year’s 9-8 squad that struggled to make the postseason and fell to Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament. So many thing have to go right.

» Related: Thoughts on Syracuse lacrosse

Orange fans should forget a national championship or a final four berth—two goals the seniors on this Orange team have yet to accomplish. If this team is going to earn a playoff spot, it needs to continue the good work at the faceoff X and improve its offensive prowess. It also needs to:

  • Protect the Dome. The team was gifted with eight home games, including tilts again No. 6 Virginia (March 1), No. 4 Johns Hopkins (March 16) and No. 5 Cornell (April 10). We can’t expect the team to win all three, but if it takes its four other home games and one or two of its steepest challenges, it should be fine.
  • Dominate with defense. Megill needs to lead the charge in front of improving sophomore keeper Bobby Wardwell, who recorded seven saves against Albany.
  • Find first-line form at middie. Marasco needs help. Senior Luke Cometti (2g, 1a) was solid, but Desko needs players like redshirt sophomores Hakeem Lecky and Henry Schoonmaker to make a difference too. Lecky has one of the quickest first steps in the game, but needs to improve his shooting accuracy. He had six shots against Albany, but only one on net.

The team was a lot of work to do, but a win versus Army on Sunday could allay fears—at least temporarily—this season is lost.

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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.