Saturday afternoon, an enthusiastic Syracuse squad took care of the No. 10 Duke Blue Devils, 14-10, for their first ACC league win.
Here are the key takeaways from the victory.
#1: Orange relies on its tough defense
Duke came into Saturday’s matchup with Syracuse having the sixth best offensive scoring stats in the country, with an average scoring of 15.64 a game.
Meanwhile, Syracuse had struggled to defend well enough to pull out close games, having lost three games by four goals or less. Against the Blue Devils, the Orange defense was stingy from the opening faceoff, allowing just one goal in the first quarter and four in the first half.
In the second half, Duke found more of an offensive flow to keep it close, but by then, the Orange was already too far ahead.
Syracuse caused 12 turnovers compared to Duke’s five, and Syracuse held the Blue Devils to 20 shots on goal and just 33 shots compared to the 61 of the Orange.
“This was our best game especially for our midfield defense, but in general our overall defense made plays when we needed to,” Syracuse head coach Gary Gait said. “We were able to capitalize and when this team plays like a team we can have success.”
Against one of the highest scoring offenses in the country, Syracuse had a great defensive gameplan. By disrupting the Duke offense and star Brennan O’Neill who finished with three goals, Syracuse earned the win by the early play on defense.
#2: Tucker Dordevic and SU offense outlasts the Blue Devils
Syracuse’s strong defensive start led the Orange to an early lead against Duke as SU went into halftime up 8-4. In the second half, Duke found its offensive stride, inching to within 10-9 with 57 seconds left in the third quarter.
But Syracuse kept up its offensive intensity, as Brendan Curry and Owen Seebold both had crucial fourth quarter goals.
Perhaps the most critical goal of the game came from Tucker Dordevic, who scored on a spinning trick shot where he fired from between his legs for a goal. It put the Orange up 12-10 with 9:23 in the fourth quarter, and wrestled momentum back to the Orange for good.
His two fourth quarter goals was part of a five-goal effort.
Six different players scored for Syracuse on nine team assists, and the offense played well particularly late to hold off one of the most talented teams in the country.
» Related: Dordevic leads Syracuse to a win over Stony Brook
#3: Syracuse building confidence after big win
While Syracuse started the season ranked No. 12, before Saturday, the Orange had failed to defeated a ranked opponent and had dropped out of the top 25.
And many of the games followed the same pattern where the Orange played tough against a higher ranked team, but failed to finish in the closing minutes. Saturday’s game appeared to follow a similar pattern, with Duke pulling to within 11-10 after a Joe Robertson goal with 12:43 left in the fourth quarter.
Unlike other games this season, a close game late did not end with a collapse.
“We need everybody with our roster shrinking,” Gait said. “We have the next man up mentality, and today some second and third line guys had opportunities.”
The Orange look to build off their big win as they finish off conference play. With four ranked opponents in their next five games, Syracuse has an opportunity to change the narrative of their play against top teams.
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