Syracuse men’s lacrosse entering NCAA tournament with everything clicking

Syracuse has plenty of momentum
Syracuse has plenty of momentum

Forget the head-scratching No. 8 seeding. Forget that the high-powered Albany Great Danes are coming to town and that a possible matchup with No. 1 seed Maryland looms.

The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team is playing its best ball right now. The team (11-4) has won five in a row, including two in the ACC tournament to repeat as conference champion.

During the current stretch, the Orange is outscoring its opponents 68-30; that’s an average of 13.6 goals for and 6 goals against per game. Throw out the 13-5 and 18-3 victories over unranked foes Binghamton and Colgate, and Syracuse is still outscoring opponents 37-22.

Meanwhile, since being inserted into the starting lineup against Hobart on April 6, junior goalie Evan Molloy has turned into the consistent netminder the team lacked early in the season and that will be critical to an NCAA tournament run.

Molloy has a 5.71 goal against average and a .587 save percentage. He’s improved in every game and was superb in the ACC tournament. He saved 27 shots and allowed just 15 goals in two games against North Carolina and Duke—two of the best offenses in the country. That was enough to earn him MVP honors.

» Related: Syracuse lacrosse, seeded No. 8 in the NCAA Tournament, will host Albany

The defense in front of Molloy has been just as important to the team’s success. Brandon Mullins, Nick Mellen and Scott Firmin have melded into a cohesive unit that slides, recovers and works together on off-ball defense. After the meltdown against Notre Dame, when the team allowed 17 goals, this unit has addressed its weaknesses.

On offense, Syracuse has five players with more than 20 goals: Nick Mariano (34), Dylan Donahue (28), Sergio Salcido (26), Jordan Evans (25) and Tim Barber (24). They’re leading the way for a unit that ranks eighth in the country with 12.9 goals per game.

Then there’s face-off specialist Ben Williams, who picked up more than 63 percent of his draws on the season—also good for eighth in the country.

When Syracuse faces Albany (12-3) at home on Sunday, the team should feel confident in hitting its stride in each facet of the game. It should also feel good knowing it already handled the Great Danes with relative ease, 16-7, early in the season. Both teams have improved since February, and the Orange defenders will have their hands full with Seth Oakes and Connor Fields. Albany also has a terrific keeper in Blaze Riorden.

So you’re welcome to debate the seeding all you want, but Syracuse doesn’t need any extra motivation. The Orange have just 5 NCAA tournament wins in the past six years. The program measures success by Final Fours (27) and championships (10), and it’s been three years and seven years, respectively, since those goals have been accomplished. You can bet this squad is itching to make a run and get the program back to where it belongs.

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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.