2014 ACC Lacrosse Tournament, No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 2 Duke: The Rematch

USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse and Duke played earlier in the season ending in an unbalanced 21-7 Duke win. Syracuse has fought back to get five straight wins since then and has improved in every aspect of their game. On the other side, Duke remains one of the most dominant teams in the nation. The rematch will take place on Friday in the first round of the ACC Tournament.

On March 23, the Syracuse Orange got punched in the gut by the Duke Blue Devils. SU walked off the muddy field after a 21-7 eye-popping defeat. No Orange team had given up that many goals in a loss to an opponent since April 23, 1977. Following this demoralizing defeat, many, including myself, were prepared to stick a fork in the season, and the Duke game was looking like it would be the highlight real of the ineptitude that had doomed the Syracuse's disastrous ACC debut. The team held a meeting address their issues and figure out how to get back on track. The meeting appeared to work as the Orange have since gone on a 5-0 run, beating Notre Dame, Cornell, Binghamton, UNC and Hobart. With new life in them, the Orange appear to have steadied the ship and look ready for a strong postseason appearance; Syracuse is now back in the National Championship conversation.

Duke started off their season 4-0 before losing back-to-back games against the Maryland Terrapins and the Loyola Greyhounds in early March. Since that point, the Blue Devils have ripped off eight straight wins, scoring at least 15 goals in all but one of those games. Duke provides an impossible matchup situation on offense as they are loaded at attack and their first midfield line is possibly the best in the country. Duke is the one team I didn't want to face in the ACCT, and hopefully we don't have to face them until Championship Weekend. I think Duke is the National Champion at the end of the year, and even with Syracuse's improvements I think the Orange lose this game. My prediction is a 18-12 loss.

Duke and Syracuse will match up Friday at 5 pm for the first round of the ACC Tournament. You can watch the game on ESPNU or listen on 99.5 FM WTKW.

Attack

Friday will feature two of the most prolific offenses in the country. While the Orange only recently got their wheels turning, Duke has been dominant all year long. The Blue Devils are second in the country in scoring offense with 14.36 goals per game. Jordan Wolf has an insane 46 goals, 21 assists on the year. The three-time All-American will probably be matched up with Brandon Mullins. Wolf has a good shot from outside when he can get set, but his speed and ability as a dodger makes him hardest to defend from behind the cage and this is how he earns most of his goals. Josh Dionne is second on Duke with 35 goals. At 5'7," Dionne's small stature allows him to take hits on the crease and still stay on his feet. He likes to play below the goal but will sneak up the crease without the ball, looking for a pass to get a quick-stick goal. He is especially good in that latter role due to his quick feet and excellent stick work. The New Hampshire native's .792 shots on goal percentage is excellent evidence of the amount of shots he gets from close to the cage. Case Matheis rounds out that starting attack, having picked up 13 goals and 14 assists on the season. The former #1 recruit in the nation has taken a back seat to the offensive powers, which he is surrounded by.

Midfield

We all thought it would be the attack that would lead Duke this year, but their midfielders have been a major part of this offense. Christian Walsh, Deemer Class and Myles Jones make up the top midfield line for the Blue Devils. The trio has accumulated a combined 69 goals and 55 assists on the year. Over the last 5 games, the first line midfield has combined for 78 points including 23 against Syracuse.

Myles Jones has made himself into an incredible threat. Although he had 16 goals in his freshman year, he has put up 25 goals and 12 assists in his sophomore season. Jones is a massive human being standing at 6'4" and weighing in at 240 lbs. He is a physical player, and uses his heavy shoulder to muscle past his defender. The Huntington, NY native demands a double team when he has the ball in shooting range, but still can push his way through. If he gets under his defensive mark, good luck, you can find the ball at the back of the net. Jones has a cannon of an arm, which Syracuse found out about in his 5-goal performance against the Orange, and he is just as good on his left hand is he is on his right.

Defensively, Will Haus is one of the best midfielders in the country. The Pennsylvania native has had 35 ground balls and 4 takeaways through 14 games.

FOGO

Below is Chris Daddio's game-by-game record. In each of the Orange's three losses this year, Daddio has failed to snag more than 5 face-off wins.

Opponent

Daddio's Record

Daddio's Win Percentage

Siena W

10-17

.588

Albany W

24-36

.667

Maryland L

5-17

.294

Virginia L

5-22

.227

St. John's W

10-21

.476

Johns Hopkins W

3-16

.188

Duke L

1-7

.143

Notre Dame W

15-24

.625

Binghamton W

10- 22

.455

Cornell W

14-26

.539

UNC W

18-26

.692

Hobart W

11-26

.423

Considering this season's history at the face-off circle, I think that a 40% win percentage for Chris Daddio is necessary to be competitive against Duke. During SU's five game win streak, Daddio has been above 40% in every game, and above 50% in 3 games. The best part about this five game stretch for Daddio has been the consistency of solid play. The senior FOGO went 3-16 (.187) against Johns Hopkins but versus Notre Dame's Liam O'Connor (O'Connor has a .616 f/o win percentage in 2014), he was able to go 15-24 (.625). On the other hand, the worst part about this five game stretch for the face-off crew has been SU's problems turning the ball over after the win.

Daddio will be facing off against Brandon Fowler who is 12th in the country with a .611 win percentage and 206 of 339 overall. In their last matchup, Daddio won just 1 of 7 face-offs against Fowler. Fowler wins a lot of those face-offs back to himself, which has driven him to 133 groundballs this year. Face-offs will take a heightened importance in this game, primarily because of both teams have the ability to score quick and often and this could lead to a lot of meetings at the center X.

Defense

The Blue Devils will take on the Orange without long-pole Luke Duprey. Duprey is out for the year with an ACL tear. The senior caused a team leading 22 turnovers and picked up 34 groundballs this year, and had been a huge part of the Duke defense. That being said Duprey also accounted for 17% of Duke's penalty minutes. Brian Dailey has been filling in for Duprey at the long-stick midfielder position.

The Blue Devils do not give up a lot of shots. More so, their opponents have just a .542 shots on goal percentage. The Duke long-poles are big, even without 6'5" LSM Luke Duprey. The defense often slouches towards the crease creating a natural screen on their goalie, which has been a problem in several games. Their three long-poles are not the fastest in Division I, fast attackmen and middies can find opportunities by moving the ball quickly. Additionally, ball reversals on the outside have exposed defensive weaknesses for the Blue Devils. If a Duke defenseman gets beat, the adjoining slide tends to come fairly slow giving the shooter time to fire on the run.

Casey Carroll is in his fourth season with Duke. As a junior in 2007 Carroll was a first-team All-American, before spending 2007-12 in the75th Ranger Regiment of the Army. Making his return this year he has 18 caused turnovers. After missing 5 early season games to injury, Henry Lobb has bounced back nicely with 16 groundballs and 2 caused turnovers. Chris Hipps is the third close defender and has 25 groundballs and 2 caused turnovers on the year.

Goal

I have always been against a two-goalie rotation. Just like football teams avoid a two-quarterback system, this type of system often puts the second half goalie into a bad position, coming in cold and sometimes not up to the speed of the game. This has been one of those odd cases where a two-goalie system has done well. The Orange have the ironically unfortunate situation of having two goalies who are superb, you just can't sit either one.

On the other side, Luke Aaron makes just over 8 saves a game but has a .550 save percentage. Aaaron took over net duties from Kyle Turri after the second game of the year, but has been superb.

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