Item: Staring at the rare prospect of a sub .500 record in the middle of a season just over two weeks ago, the rejuvenated Syracuse lacrosse team, firmly a Top 10 team in this week’s media poll (ranked 8th but just No. 12 in the USILA poll), heads into this evening’s Dome matchup with longtime upstate rival Hobart (7:00 p.m. ET / ACC Network Extra) having conquered two of its four ACC rivals in contrasting fashion over the last two games.
With seven of its opponents also ranked in the Top 20 this week, Syracuse coach John Desko knew that this year’s team integrating a lot of young talent, especially at midfield, with a sprinkling of key veterans, would either wilt or excel as the season progressed, while consistently concentrating on maintaining the program’s lofty standards with a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
At 5-3 overall and 3-0 in first place in the ACC, and with North Carolina, the only non-ranked conference team left to play before the conference tournament April 27 and 29 at Virginia, the Orange are looking to get in a groove that is equal part offense, as in the 15-14 thriller at Duke on March 24, and this past weekend’s defensive dominance over long stretches in the 10-6 Dome victory over Notre Dame.
Add in the spectacular play from goalie Dom Madonna, the reigning ACC defensive player of the week with 13 often clutch saves against the Irish, and the picture looks bright with an overall schedule that has four home games surrounding one tricky road test at Cornell, and the aforementioned conference tourney.
“It’s still a process (jelling as a team),” Desko said Monday as he met the media outside the lacrosse team’s office at Manley Field House.
“We’re trying different combinations out there; we’ve talked about our youth with guys like (midfielders Brad) McKinney and Pat Carlin who are in their redshirt junior year and starting to help the offense (both among the top 16 point scorers ). They bring some continuity out there running with some of the younger guys. We’re still trying to figure it out, but we’re figuring it out with a couple of big wins under our belt.”
With just three days between the impressive showing over the Irish Saturday and tonight’s meeting with Hobart, it’s the first of two short weeks on the season schedule with only one day of practice to get ready for the Statesmen, but there’s no doubt SU will be prepared. This is truly a rivalry game; the 104th meeting between the schools marks the third-longest matchup in college lax annals, and the right to hoist the Kraus-Simmons trophy dating back to 1986.
For one ‘Cuse player, there’s no more personal meaning of playing, and defeating, Hobart than what goes through the mind of senior middie Ryan Simmons (one goal, two assists this season), the latest legacy of the family that is the base of the Syracuse lacrosse dating back to 1931.
With his great-grandfather Roy Simmons Sr.’s name on the trophy, his grandfather Roy Simmons Jr. watching from a box above, and his father Roy III handling his usual game day duties along the sidelines as the program’s director of operations, Ryan Simmons is playing in his final Hobart game, and he couldn’t be more excited.
“It’s a blast for me,” Ryan said on cuse.com Monday. “It’s kind of cool that I get to have a bunch of my family watching, I know they’re supporting me and our team the whole way. It’s pretty special and it’s been fun for four years, this being the last year means a little bit more.”
A victory over Hobart tonight would also mean this year’s Syracuse team can continue to focus a little more clearly on its biggest goal, securing a Final Four berth and a shot at playing for “the gold trophy” for the first time in five seasons.