It is crazy to me that the Duke Blue Devils and Syracuse Orange have only faced off 12 times. In the last three years, these two have gone at it on five occasions. Although SU has lost four of the last five matchups, Syracuse still holds the series record at 7-5. Of course, no one forgets the 2013 National Championship game in which Syracuse was outscored in the second half 11-4, or the 2014 regular season game in which the Blue Devils smacked ‘Cuse 21-4 in one of the most embarrassing Syracuse performances of the last ten years. SU, however, was able to avenge last year's regular season loss with a 16-15 2014 ACC Tournament win.
This year Duke enters the game at 7-1, the one loss coming against the Denver Pioneers. Sunday's game will be the first time Duke will visit the Carrier Dome since the 1994 NCAA Tournament and the first time ever Duke will visit the Dome for a regular season game. The Blue Devils have yet to play an ACC contest and this should be a good benchmark for both of these programs.
A few notes before we get into it:
- TNIAAM's own Brian Tahmosh had a conversation this week with Paul Carcaterra about Syracuse lacrosse, check it out here
- Randy Staats has not practiced with Syracuse as of Wednesday, and is questionable for Sunday with an apparent knee injury
- The Tewaaraton Foundation released additions to its 2015 Tewaaraton Trophy Watch List, adding Syracuse FOGO Ben Williams to the list
The loss of Jordan Wolf and Josh Dionne left the Duke attack with big shoes to fill this year. The attack is headed by freshman Justin Guterding who leads all Duke players with 27 goals and is sixth in the nation in goals per game. The Garden City, NY, native also has six assists on the year. Rated as the number one incoming freshman in the 2012 class, Case Matheis started 19 games last year pulling in 23 goals and 19 assists. This year the junior has taken a back seat, picking up just five goals and five assists. The third attackman is Chad Cohan who started two games in 2014. The junior has 12 goals, including four man-up goals, and four assists this year.
Myles Jones is one of the best midfielders in the country. At 6'4" and 240 lbs, Jones can muscle his way through defenders. Jones started 16 games last season with 37 goals, 26 assists, and was named a second team USIL All-American. This year, through eight games, Jones has picked up 24 goals and 21 assists. He ranks 10th in assists per game, 11th in goals per game, and third in points per game nationally. Jones is a righty and has an absolute cannon but can shoot just as hard off of his left hand as well. If he gets under a defender, the opposing team might as well just head back for the faceoff because he won't be stopped. With his massive frame and incredible athletic ability, Jones creates a huge match up problem. As a midfielder there is no good shorty match up so defenses have to generally rely on the first slide by a defenseman, leaving an attackman free. This reliance on the first slide and double team causes a similar problem that the Orange faced against Wells Stanwick of Hopkins. We will probably see long-stick midfielder Peter Macartney shadowing Myles for a significant amount of the game, forcing the attack to make plays.
Let's review. This is what happens when you don't slide to Myles Jones:
And this video shows constant early slides to Jones:
After Jones, the scoring becomes very spread out. Junior Deemer Class finished second on Duke last year, behind Jordan Wolf, in goals, assists, and points. He is another player that can score on deep shots, and as a second year starter Class has 17 goals and nine assists. Jack Bruckner is having a breakout season with 19 goals and five assists. The sophomore played on the second midfield line last season scoring seven goals and six assists. Here is a pretty nifty goal from Bruckner during the 2013 NY Class A State Title game:
Talking about Deemer Class and Myles Jones, Paul Carcaterra said in a recent conversation with TNIAAM's Brian Tahmosh:
"You have to have a philosophy, defensively: do you let these guys just go berserk and shut down the rest of the team, or do whatever you can to stop them and open up opportunities for some of these other guys."
Ben Williams and his .689 winning percentage will have his hands full this week. Duke is 13th in the country for faceoff winning percentage and its top faceoff player, senior Jack Rowe, is 13th in the country for faceoff winning percentage. Rowe has compiled a 114-190 faceoff record and has a .600 winning percentage. Jack's brother, sophomore Kyle Rowe, is the Blue Devils' backup FOGO and has a 24-43 record. Kyle was the primary FOGO in 2014 taking 248-397 of his faceoff attempts and finished sixth in the country in faceoff winning percentage. The best way to beat Williams is to throw multiple faceoff guys at him and force him to adapt, so I would expect to see both brothers out there for a significant number of faceoff.
The Duke defense comes into this year with a completely new crew; between the three starting defenseman they have only one start in prior years. Sophomore Ian Yanulis saw time in all 16 games last year, but this year Yanulis has just nine groundballs. Fellow sophomore Brian Dunne saw action in nine games and had one start in 2014 pulling in three groundballs and one caused turnover. In 2015, Dunne has nine groundballs through eight games. Freshman Greg Pelton is the third starting close defenseman. The Chester Springs, PA, native has 14 groundballs on the season. Long-stick midfielder Ethan Powley has started several games at close defense. The sophomore has eight groundballs on the year. The defense does not cause very many turnovers. Overall, Duke ranks 46th in the nation in caused turnovers per game.
The Duke defense is relatively inexperienced and normally the Syracuse attack would take full advantage. However, it is still unclear whether SU senior attackman Randy Staats will be on the field. Staats didn't practice with the team this week and appears to have a knee injury. The Orange could replace Staats with Tim Barber, Jordan Evans, or JT Forkin. It will be good experience if one of these guys starts as there are two seniors set to graduate this May.
Luke Aaron is the net minder for Duke. Aaron is a second year starter and has a10.40 goals against average and a .520 save percentage. Just like Bobby Wardwell, Aaron has been steady for the Blue Devils. Against the Denver Pioneers Aaron made some fantastic saves and finished with 12 on the day.
The Orange will host the Duke Blue Devils on Sunday at 12:30 pm. The game can be seen on ESPNU and heard on WTKW 99.5 FM. Of course you can also follow me @Orangelax for updates throughout the game.