Item: Following a non-bowl season for the football team and with the basketball team possessing longshot odds to win the ACC Tournament and secure an automatic NCAA berth beginning Wednesday night against either North Carolina or Virginia Tech (9:30 p.m. ET approximately / ESPN 2), it’s been a tough seven-month sports calendar for Orange Nation. But there’s a lot to look forward to through May. Staying atop the Div. I lacrosse polls announced Monday, Syracuse (5-0), even minus two key contributors in last weekend’s dominating win at Johns Hopkins, has clearly demonstrated that it is going to have a major say in the 2020 national championship picture.
Despite an unblemished record through five games and currently occupying the often-fragile top perch of the Div. I landscape, the one “weakness” of this otherwise solid up-the-middle ‘Cuse team is there actually may be a plethora of scoring options in man-up situations.
Sometimes with a defined :30 or :60 to finish off a sequence with a goal, the Orange have been a tad more forced, as opposed to the offense’s natural flow of bullet passes and exceptional individual moves that have produced many highlight goals among the 83 total tallies, currently scored by 13 different SU players.
“We always say intelligence and maturity is going to win games,” senior midfielder Jamie Trimboli recited after his typical five-point (4/1) game versus Hopkins, describing the methodical approach towards making an opponent pick its poison.
“So, we want to wind that clock all the way down,” Trimboli continued. “Kind of take the air out of the other team, be efficient late in the shot clock, and score a couple (goals) to really increase that lead.”
In year two of the 0:80 shot clock era; it’s working. Trimboli (17 goals), along with Brendan Curry and Tucker Dordevic form the top middie unit nationally, and benefit from the passing and scoring options from the starting attackmen spotlighted by Chase Scanlan (18 goals), Stephen Rehfuss (18 assists).
Since precision counts on every possession, it starts and ends with faceoffs. Head coach John Desko has had just the right hand in substituting starting specialist Jakob Phaup (67% conversions) with back-up and one-time starter Danny Varello (63%), keeping opponents off-balance and setting that offense into motion.
The subdued Syracuse star to the rise back atop the polls has been at the other end of the field. Senior goalie Drake Porter, poised yet vocal, constantly barks out instructions to his tough inside defense. Porter isn’t among the national statistical leaders in the cage, but he’s come up with critical saves early in games to set the tone, or late to preserve a lead.
“Some guys who may not have been as vocal as in the past, I guess myself included, have stepped up and been vocal communicators out there,” Porter said following a 16-save performance against JHU. “Everyone has sort of (made their contribution).”
Syracuse remains on the road at unranked Rutgers (2-4) Saturday afternoon (1:00 p.m. ET / Big 10 Network Plus), looking to go to 6-0 for the first time since 2015 (7-0 start).