The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team is doing a great impression of the men’s basketball team, and it’s both frustrating and encouraging.
The Orange (6-4, 1-2) raced out to a 5-0 record but proceeded to lose four of its past five—three of which were in overtime. The way things are going now, the team is just as likely to miss the ACC and NCAA tournaments as they are to be playing on championship weekend in Philadelphia.
This is all too familiar. Jim Boeheim’s bunch started 6-0, dropped seven of 11, won eight of nine and then finished the regular season losing four of five. The team also lost its first ACC tournament game but then went on an exhilarating four-game run to the Final Four.
At this point, John Desko’s crew can only hope for the same kind of season.
We knew the team would be a work in progress with two new starting attackmen, a completely new first-line midfield and an untested goalie in Warren Hill. We also knew it had to get out to a fast start, which it did, because of the brutal three-game, midseason stretch against Johns Hopkins, Duke and Notre Dame.
Except against the Irish, when Syracuse got blown out 17-7, the team has been in each of its games.
At Johns Hopkins, the Orange had a two-goal lead with just over two minutes to play. At Duke, the Blue Devils outscored Syracuse 5-1 in the fourth. The team also had a lead against Cornell before conceding the tying goal. Each game ended in an overtime disappointment. Syracuse is just a few plays away from being 9-1, so there’s good reason to be optimistic.
There’s also good reason to believe the Notre Dame game was an anomaly. Desko even admitted afterward that he thought the team played without focus. The defense—an experienced unit expected to carry the team—struggled all game. Hill also looked shaky in the net, making only four saves and allowing 14 goals before getting pulled. And typically stellar face-off specialist Ben Williams won a more pedestrian 11-of-24 draws.
With Dylan Donahue (18 goals, 22 assists) leading the team in points and options developing in Nick Mariano (22 g, 5 a), Sergio Salcido (16 g, 11 a), Tim Barber (16 g, 9 a) and Jordan Evans (18 g, 5 a), the Orange offense is in good shape. Williams can be expected to be great at the X. The defense can be expected to clean up its “mental errors” too.
The only unsettled situation is in the net. With Hill struggling, Desko has turned to Evan Molloy for two straight starts. He’s recorded an 8.70 goals against average compared to Hill’s 10.06. Molloy’s saves percentage also is slightly better (.465 to .426). But if Molloy begins to struggle, will Desko turn back to Hill? Will we see another timeshare?
We may start to get those answers tomorrow in a critical league game at home against North Carolina (7-4, 2-0). The Tar Heels have a potent offense, scoring more than 13 goals per game.
So strap yourselves in, I think we’re in for another rollercoaster ride. We may yet see the Orange lacrosse team match their hardcourt brethren with a Final Four run.