The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team wasn’t expected to be 10-3 at this point in the season. It’s overachieved on many levels. But now that the Orange are there, which team should we count on to show up in the regular season finale against Notre Dame, the conference tournament and potentially the NCAA tournament?
The Orange have surprised at times and confounded and frustrated at others, like this past week, which included a 13-12 loss in its home finale to Hobart (now 6-7) and a 9-8 win on Saturday against Georgetown (5-8).
Yes, these two games were at the end of a brutal five-games-in-fifteen-days gauntlet that included four wins, but these games were against inferior opponents, and the Orange should have won them handily.
The problem, it seems, is Syracuse can’t get all facets—attack, defense, and faceoffs—working at their best at the same time. When the team dominates at the faceoff X, like it did against Hobart, the offense goes silent and the defense breaks down. The Orange were held scoreless for the final 11 minutes of the game against the Statesmen, and the defense allowed four-straight goals.
Against Georgetown, the defense clicked and held its opponent scoreless for more than 23 minutes, but the offense couldn’t muster enough firepower to ice the game. The team won because it denied the Hoya offense a shot in its final possession—even with Steve Ianzito’s broken stick.
When Syracuse bests quality opponents, like Cornell on April 10, the three main facets of the game join together. The Orange kept the faceoff battle close (a 16-12 deficit), held Big Red star Rob Pannell without a point for the final three quarters and the offense went on a decisive three-goal run in the fourth quarter.
The Orange has all the makings of a team capable of beating Notre Dame, making noise in the conference tournament and going on an NCAA tournament run.
Coach John Desko finally had a faceoff specialist emerge in freshman Cal Paduda. He now also has the goalie—junior Dominic Lamolinara—he trusts for 60 minutes, even if those minutes can be hot and cold. He has a trustworthy defense led by senior captain Brian Megill. He’s got a top-notch first-line midfield paced by senior captain and No. 22 jersey-owner JoJo Marasco and a burgeoning attack unit.
This team can play with the best when all facets click. It also can count on plenty of experience in narrow tilts, as many of its remaining games are likely to be. The Orange has played five straight—and eight total—one-goal margin games, tallying a 5-3 record.
It’ll get its stiffest test of the season on Saturday against the Irish in the Konica Minolta Big City Classic. The top-ranked Irish have one of the best defenses in the country thanks to goalie Jack Kemp.
We’ll know a lot more about this Syracuse team—and which one we can expect when the lights shine the brightest—on Saturday. Strangely, if Syracuse wins and Villanova beats Providence, the Orange could face Notre Dame again in the first round of the BIG EAST tournament.
If Syracuse wants to be the best, it has to beat the best. It’ll have its chance.