Syracuse lacrosse continues to surprise thanks to senior leaders

Syracuse has lost just one game this season
Syracuse has lost just one game this season

Raise your hand if you thought the Syracuse men’s lacrosse team would sweep its ACC opponents and boast a 10-1 record with two regular season games and conference championships to play.

Crickets? Thought so.

The No. 1-ranked Orange’s remarkable season has featured eight one-goal games—and seven wins in those contests. According to this week’s rankings, Syracuse has defeated No. 4 Duke, No. 5 Albany, No. 6 Notre Dame, No. 8 Johns Hopkins, and No. 16 North Carolina. The team’s only loss came against No. 12 Army.

Seniors have been leading the way in every facet of the game.

One of the team’s biggest question marks heading into the season was defense, especially once star sophomore Nick Mellen was ruled out due to injury. But that unit has excelled, holding opponents to 9.82 goals per game—good for 30th in the country, thanks in large part to senior Scott Firmin.

» Related: Faceoff play key to Syracuse lacrosse surging to No. 1 ranking

The converted long-stick middie has drawn each team’s top threat and has effectively shut down some of the best players in the country. Firman held Shack Stanwick (Johns Hopkins), Justin Guterding (Duke) and Ryder Garnsey (Notre Dame)—all on the Tewaaraton Award watchlist for the country’s best offensive player—to a combined 7 points (3 goals and 4 assists).

In a new position and wearing a new number—the defensive unit’s valued No. 11, Firman has had the versatility to cover players big and physical or quick and crafty.

Meanwhile, senior Evan Molloy has been a steadying presence in the net and a big reason for the team’s .907 clearing percentage—good for eighth in the country.

On offense, the Orange doesn’t necessarily have a singular threat but a variety of dangerous weapons to help it score 12.73 goals per game, ranked 12th in the game. Only one Syracuse player, senior Nick Mariano, ranks in the top 30 in goals scored in Division 1. He has 28; Albany’s Connor Fields leads the country with 41. Yet the Orange has four other players with double-digit goals, and two others with nine.

With games on the line, multiple players have stepped up. Mariano notched the game-winner against Albany and Notre Dame, senior midfielder Sergio Salcido against Virginia and North Carolina, junior attack Brendan Bomberry against St. John’s and Johns Hopkins, and freshman Jamie Trimboli against Duke.

Salcido ranks eighth in the country in assists, with 25.

And then there’s senior faceoff specialist Ben Williams. As one of the best in the game the past few years, he’s raking in a more pedestrian 56.5 percent of his draws this season. Yet in the come-from-behind victory against North Carolina, he won 68 percent of faceoffs, including nine of the final 11. That performance, and his 19-of-25 showing against Cornell last week, earned him ACC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Williams also has won 3-of-3 overtime draws this season.

So as the Orange get set for Senior Day at the Dome on Saturday at 2 p.m. versus Binghamton, be sure to thank those seniors for the team’s success. Then prepare for more one-goal games when the ACC semifinals begin on April 28.

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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.