Syracuse lacrosse aims to build defense and consistency at X

Syracuse lacrosse
Syracuse lacrosse faces off at the X. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

The midway point of Syracuse lacrosse’s 2021 season is upon us. After the first half of a season punctuated by dominant highs and underwhelming lows, this Orange team has shown what they are—an extremely talented team that, at a record of 4-3, has to clean up a couple of key areas in order to make a run in the second half.

Consistency at the X

The Orange has both excelled and struggled at the X this year, starting strong but losing momentum recently. Here’s a breakdown by game so far:

  • #12 Army: 18-13
  • #3 Virginia: 22-11
  • Vermont: 10-24
  • Stony Brook: 17-12
  • Holy Cross: 16-9
  • #2 Duke: 8-24
  • #9 Notre Dame: 9-23

Syracuse has one of the deeper faceoff rosters in the country, with specialists Jakob Phaup—who led the ACC in faceoff percentage the last 2 seasons—and Danny Varello, who ranked second in the ACC to his teammate.

Freshman Jack Savage has also played, coming into SU’s loss to Notre Dame and going 6-17 on faceoffs in the blowout loss.

The key to Syracuse being more consistent on faceoffs will be playing their matchups, and with 6-1, 210-pound Savage joining Phaup and Varello, Syracuse head coach Desko thinks that helps their versatility.

“(Savage) gives us a little different technique than the other guys,” Desko said. “He gets the ball out fairly quickly, he can rake it too… he’s got quick hands for a bigger guy.”

» Related: Syracuse struggles at X as Notre Dame cruises

Saves and More Saves

Senior goalie Drake Porter continues to be the defensive backbone of this team, and that play will need to continue for Syracuse to make a run in the second half.

Porter is currently 14th in the nation in saves with 89, which is all the more impressive when considered he faces some of the top attackmen in the country like Duke’s Michael Sowers and Brennan O’Neill, and Virginia’s Connor Shellenberger.

The last two games have been a different story, with Porter giving up 33 goals between them. The struggles in faceoffs have been a big factor, however, with Syracuse gaining just 17 possessions from faceoffs in those two games.

That kind of disparity will put any goalie in a tough position, leading to more shots on goal. But with an All-American like Porter, it will lead to move saves as well.

“The amount of defense we had (to play), and where they were getting their shots from (has made it difficult on Porter),” Desko said. “You know any ACC team, they get the ball that much, they’re going to score. I thought he did okay.”

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About Rutger Sears 26 Articles
Rutger is a freelance writer and as a Syracuse native, has an affinity for all Syracuse University Athletics. From Donovan McNabb to Mike Powell, Rutger has seen greatness in many forms don an Orange uniform over the last 30 years. He currently covers Orange lacrosse.