The Syracuse Orange men's lacrosse team got the centennial lacrosse celebration started with a bang on Saturday afternoon in the Carrier Dome, as they coasted to an 18-5 victory over the Siena Saints. There was never any drama in this one, as the Orange scored early and often to jump all over Siena.
Redshirt senior Dylan Donahue led the way for Syracuse as he tied a career high with 9 points on 4 goals and a career-high 5 assists.
Let's take a look at some of the big takeaways from Game #1:
The offense looked comfortable in a dominating performance
Let's take a moment to remember that this was the first game of the season for an offense that lost 5 of its 6 starters from last year's team. Jordan Evans was starting at attack for the first time in 3 years at Syracuse. Nick Piroli and Nick Mariano were playing their first career games for Syracuse, and a totally revamped midfield was playing their first regular season game as a unit.
Even with all that, I saw a Syracuse offensive unit that looked pretty comfortable running their motion offense and finding each other for scores. Of Syracuse's 18 goals, an amazing 15 of them were assisted. That's a very high percentage of assisted goals, and a good sign for an offense that already seems to be coming together as a group.
Meanwhile, how's this for an offensive stat: the Orange took 41 shots today, meaning they shot 18-41 for the game. That's a percentage of 43.9, an excellent shooting percentage for a lacrosse game.
Typical balanced scoring attack for the Orange
Dylan Donahue may have lead the way with his career-high-tying 9 points, but the Syracuse offense got contributions from all over as they did a great job of sharing the ball and finding the open man for the finish.
Outside of Donahue, five Orange players contributed two goals apiece: Tim Barber (who also had 3 assists), Jordan Evans, Nick Piroli, Sergio Salcido, and Devin Shewell. Nick Mariano and Gale Thorpe also chipped in a goal and an assist each.
A balanced attack with so many goal scorers has been commonplace for Syracuse in recent years, and the 2016 season got off to the same kind of start for this year's offense.
Not all good news for the offense
Probably the only major complaint coming out of this game for Syracuse would be the general sloppiness at times with the ball. The Orange committed 18 turnovers for the game. While that number is not atypical of any team's first game of the season, it is certainly a number that coach John Desko will want to see reduced as the Orange takes a big step up in competition as the season moves forward.
In fact, Coach Desko had this to say in his post game press conference:
"I just peaked at the turnovers, and we had 18. Not terribly uncommon for this time of year, but any coach that looks at it (the box score) doesn't want that many turnovers in a game situation.When we go against some teams in the ACC or some of the competition that we have coming up, and 18 turnovers isn't going to get it done, so, we obviously need to cut down on those."
The Orange play Albany next weekend, so a step-up in competition will necessitate the offense doing a better job of hanging on to the ball.
Nick Mellen had a fantastic debut
The highly touted All-American defender out of West Genesee had about as good of a debut as is possible for a close defender in this one. The true freshman had a standout kind of a day for the Orange defense, causing four turnovers and picking up six ground balls to lead Syracuse in both categories.
It was the kind of performance that will get Syracuse lacrosse fans way too excited about the young defender and dreaming about what his future in orange holds for him and for Syracuse lacrosse. It may have "only" been against Siena, but in guarding their leading scorer from last year, Jordan Barlow, Mellen gave us all something extra to be giddy about coming out of this performance.
Same old (exciting) story from Ben Williams
In a game that Syracuse dominated statistically, all advantages could be traced back to one place: the face-off X. Syracuse held an 18-5 edge on the scoreboard, a 41-17 edge in shots, and a 41-23 advantage in ground balls. All of that is largely due to the fact that Ben Williams and the rest of the Orange face-off unit owned the day at X, as they went 20-27 for the game.
Williams lead the way going 12-16, while Cal Paduda relieved him by going 5-8. Joe DeMarco and Nate Farrell closed things out by going 2-2 and 1-1 at X, respectively.
We all know the advantage Williams provides for Syracuse and the general impact he has on the game, and it was once again evident in the Dome today. Williams's dominating performance was the main reason that Syracuse was able to dominate time of possession and come away with an easy win.
Overall, this was a nice, comfortable performance to start the season for Syracuse lacrosse; and how exciting it is that lacrosse season is back, by the way. The Orange will return to the field on Sunday, February 21 at 4 pm to host the Albany Great Danes.