Syracuse (1-0) brushed aside Siena (0-1) in a 19-6 blowout on Saturday, but the final score does not reflect some of the real concerns the Orange will face this season.
Head Coach John Desko rolled out an entirely new defensive group for the game with Brandon Mullins and Jay McDermott gone due to graduation, and last year’s young stalwart Nick Mellen still sidelined with a shoulder injury.
That led to Desko naming senior Scott Firman, sophomore Tyson Bomberry and redshirt sophomore Marcus Cunningham as the starting three in front of redshirt senior goalie Evan Malloy.
The group struggled early in the game. The score was 4-3 with the Orange leading at the four-minute mark in the first quarter. Nate Soloman went on a hat-trick-tear to make it 7-3 by the end of the quarter, but it was apparent that Siena was hanging around.
“It was disappointing giving up goals early,” Desko said. “They were kind of easy goals.”
That sentiment seemed to take the blame off of Malloy and placed it squarely on the new backline.
However, Desko praised the defense for cleaning up the mistakes. After allowing three goals by the four-minute mark in the first, the Orange did not allow the Saints to score again for two quarters worth of game time.
Siena finally broke through on a man-up opportunity in the dying minutes of the third quarter, well after the Syracuse offense had put the game away.
“I thought we played well as a unit later in the game,” Desko said.
The famed coach even noted on the group’s ability to turn defense into attack at a rapid rate.
“It was good to seem them create and get out on the break,” he said.
So while the end result was a very solid showing from the new-look Syracuse defense, the beginning was very shaky.
The concern remains that if the Orange allow early goals to a better opponent, such as Albany, who Syracuse plays next, that the offense will not be able to bail the defense out by scoring at will.
With Mellen unlikely to return this week, that means Desko will again roll out Cunningham, Firman and Bomberry, this time against better competition. It is hard to tell which version of this defense will show up early in this in-state matchup.
Desko didn’t seem overly concerned, though.
“We took care of what we could take care of,” he said of the team’s performance against Siena.