On Sunday evening, in the middle game of a lacrosse triple-header at the Carrier Dome, the Syracuse Orange men's lacrosse team dispatched of the Albany Great Danes by a score of 16-7. It was the largest margin of victory in the series since the first game between the two schools back in 2004, when the Orange topped the Great Danes, 18-8.
Syracuse was lead by a few guys who had career days, starting with a pair of hat tricks for Derek DeJoe and Nick Mariano. The Orange also got a big performance from Matt Lane, who posted a career-high four points on two goals and two assists. Dylan Donahue actually lead the team in scoring on the day with five points on one goal and four assists. Donahue's goal helped to extend the nation's second longest goal scoring streak to 27 games.
Let's take a look at HOW the Orange pulled out the victory against the Great Danes:
Let's start our takeaways in the same place that Syracuse started their domination in the game: the face-off X. It has become a weekly ritual for us to use the word 'dominate' when describing the work that Ben Williams and the face-off crew do during each game. Sunday evening was no different, as Williams lead the charge by going 17-of-24 on face-offs, including winning the first 11 draws of the game. It was the 10th time in his career that Williams has won eight or more face-offs in a row. Cal Paduda came on in relief and went 3-for-3 at the X.
Winning 20-of-27 face-offs overall allowed Syracuse to dictate the flow of the game as well as dominate the ground ball battle, which Syracuse won 45-26. Ben Williams's performance on Sunday, as it has so many times in his relatively short Syracuse career, gave the Orange and huge advantage and put them in a great position to win.
The time of possession advantage provided by the face-off performance gave the offense all the time they needed to fire away their shots, and fire away they did. In fact, the Orange appeared to be in "shoot first, ask questions later" mode straight from the get-go.
Syracuse held a 21-3 advantage in shots taken after the first quarter, and they maintained that gap throughout the game. They ran away with the shots statistic during this game, finishing it with an amazing 59-25 final tally. This was the most shots Syracuse has taken in a single game in nearly 20 years. On April 19, 1997, they produced an incredible 72 shots in the rivalry game against Hobart.
I don't care how good of a day your goalie is having, and Albany goalie Blaze Riorden had quite a good day in recording 17 saves, but when a team takes 59 shots at your cage, they will produce a large number on the scoreboard. Syracuse didn't have their best shooting percentage day, but that didn't really matter given the high volume of shots they got off all game long.
For years now, Syracuse has displayed a remarkable ability to squeeze a large number of players onto the score sheet in any given game, and yesterday was another example of that. It took until the seventh goal on Sunday to produce a repeat goal scorer for Syracuse, when Matt Lane tallied his second with 3:14 remaining in the second quarter.
For the game, five different Syracuse players recorded multiple goals, while nine players recorded a point. Head Coach John Desko was very pleased with the balance displayed by his offense, and he had this to say about it after the game:
"That's what we'd like to be standard. It's how we like to play. We don't want to give the ball to one person all the time. If they get stopped, then our team stops and our offense stops. We want to share the ball like we did. It was good to see these guys step up today and put the ball in the back of the net".
This team clearly does not want to become overly dependent on Dylan Donahue to produce points for them this season. Through two games, the offense has shown an ability to move the ball effectively and find the open shooter, whoever he may be, to put away the goals.
Defense Slow to Start, Adjusts Nicely
This was Albany's first game of the season, and their first time in four seasons running their offense without Lyle Thompson. That meant that the Syracuse defense had very little to go on in their preparation for facing Albany this week. They had no tape to watch of Albany's offense sans the leading point scorer in Division I history, which meant they were very much in the dark as they lined up to defend Albany in this one.
With Ben Williams doing his thing on the face-offs, Albany barely had the ball in the first half. As a result, they produced only nine shots through the first 30 minutes. However, they scored four first half goals, meaning they shot well and capitalized on the few opportunities they did have. Coach Desko spoke post-game about the task facing the defense and how they handled it.
"I think we spoke coming into the game that it was gonna be harder to game plan. They hadn't had a game yet. There was no film. All we could do was look at the statistics and the personnel that were returning from a year ago...We just kind of focused on that and we felt that they were gonna share the ball more this year than giving it to one player maybe 80 percent of the time...The defense adjusted. I think the defense just got comfortable after the first half and got pretty stingy".
Desko seemed to indicated that it took the defense until halftime to get comfortable and really understand how Albany was operating offensively. In the first half, the defense especially struggled to defend off the ball, losing track of their marks on multiple occasions which lead directly to goals. Giving up only four first half goals was more a product of lack of possession for Albany than it was staunch defending on Syracuse's part.
In the second half, though, the defense did a better job of clamping down on their men. Although Albany had the ball more in the second half, they were able to produce only three goals. All in all, giving up only seven goals in a game to any team is a pretty good achievement.
A late announcement before the game started was that graduate student transfer Nick Piroli would not play with a lower body injury. Moving into his position at starting attack was Tim Barber, who started last week on the first-line midfield. However, Barber took a hard cross-check up high in the waning seconds of the first half as he tried to shovel pass to Dylan Donahue. He was down on the turf for a couple minutes before walking off for halftime under his own power.
When the Orange returned for the second half, Barber had his helmet off and was standing at the end of the bench. He never returned to the game. In the post-game press conference, Coach Desko addressed the injury concerns.
"Nick is out momentarily. I'm not sure when he's gonna come back. We expect him back this season, but that's gonna be a week-by-week situation. Timmy, we'll see, after we talk to the doctors tonight. I'm sure it's a matter of when we're getting him back, and whether it's the next game or not, I'm not sure yet".
So, no definitive answers right now on either injury. We'll keep updated on those situations.
Syracuse will return to the field on Sunday, February 28 to play the Army Black Knights in the Carrier Dome. The game will be at 4 p.m. ET and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN3 and on the radio in Syracuse on TK99.