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Syracuse Lacrosse: Orange Hang On For Tough Victory Over Army

Army provided Syracuse with its toughest test of the young season, giving them just about all they could handle on Sunday afternoon.

Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

The pipe can either be a goalie's best friend or his worst enemy. Thankfully for Warren Hill and the Syracuse Orange, it was the former on Sunday evening as they held on in the final moments to defeat the Army Black Knights, 9-8, and improve to 3-0 on the season.

An anxious afternoon in the Carrier Dome for Syracuse supporters was punctuated by an even more anxious final 20 seconds, as the Black Knights stripped Tim Barber of the ball, raced down the field, and saw Cole Johnson's desperation heave towards goal ping off the right side of the cage to finish off the game.

Army provided Syracuse with their toughest challenge of the young season, especially on their defensive end, where they held the Orange to a season-low nine goals and pretty much didn't give them anything easy all afternoon long.

Let's take a look at what happened in the Carrier Dome on Sunday:

Army Tough

One thing is guaranteed when you play Army: they're going to give you a tough fight for 60 minutes. They're not going to make anything easy for you, and if you should ever find yourself with a little breathing room on the scoreboard, you know that you better keep your foot on the gas, because they're not going away until there are three zeros left on the clock.

Just 54 seconds into the second half, Nate Solomon put home a goal to complete a 6-0 Syracuse run and put the Orange up by a score of 7-3. In his post game comments, John Desko admitted that his team had perhaps fallen victim to such a mental lapse, saying:

"We got maybe a little comfortable when we got up by four goals in the third period. As expected, Army crawled back into the game and ended up tying it up and turning it into a game that could have gone either way".

Stingy Defense

It wasn't just their ability to fight their way back into the game in the second half. Army also showed strong defensive toughness throughout the game, making life difficult for a Syracuse offense that had found the net 34 times in the first two contests.

Austin Schultz, Army's All-American close defender, smothered Dylan Donahue for much of the game, limiting him to one goal and one assist and relatively limited time with the ball in his possession. Schultz was primarily able to handle Donahue in one-on-one coverage, which limited the need for the rest of the Army defense to have to slide. This forced the Syracuse offense to rely on individual dodging as their primary means of generating goals, something that they struggled to do for much of the night. Coach Desko had this to say about the Army defense:

"The way they were playing defense, they weren't sliding a lot, and they forced us to basically dodge to score...It took us a little while to adjust to that, and fortunately some of (our) guys made some big plays and made some good shots, enough of them, anyway, to put us in a position to win the game".

Syracuse was only able to assist on two of the nine goals, a statistic that supports coach Desko's statement and represents Army's tough defense.

DeJoe expands his role

For the first three years of his career, Derek DeJoe was known primarily as the extra-man opportunity specialist. He came into the game when the other team committed a penalty to be Syracuse's sniper from up top, and it's a role in which he had some success over the course of his career.

Now a senior, DeJoe is finally getting his chance to show what he can do as a regular midfield contributor for the Orange, and it looks like he is not about to throw away his shot. With six goals in the first three games, DeJoe is already only one goal shy of tying his career high for goals in a season.

More than that, DeJoe is showing versatility in the WAY that he is scoring his goals. He's proving himself to be more than just a long range shooter, and his two goals tonight were proof of that. For his first goal, which opened the scoring five minutes into the game, DeJoe spun his man, dodged to his left, and fired it home on the run. For his second, he received a pass while dodging, got inside of his man, and cooly passed it into the back of the net. DeJoe's abilities to create and score on the move could be a valuable asset for the Syracuse offense this season.

Hill comes up big

In a game when the Syracuse offense only got to nine, a lot more pressure was put on the defense than in the first two games of the year. Warren Hill was called upon 18 different times to make a save Sunday, and he came through 10 of those times, doubling up his previous career high in saves in the process.

No save was bigger than the one that Hill barely got a piece of in the final seconds of the game. That deflection of Cole Johnson's shot was just enough to push it into the pipe and keep it out of the goal, preserving the victory for the Orange.

Hill also showed off his John-Galloway-esque precision in the clearing game when he unleashed a fourth quarter clear that traveled about three quarters of the field in the air. With a lack of options close to him, Hill looked long and fired a hail mary of a clearing pass to one of his attackmen near the opposite end line. It was an exciting glimpse into the type of clearing that could lead to a more run-and-gun style for Syracuse moving forward.

An Inverse Correlation?

Once again on Sunday, Syracuse controlled the face-off X. Ben Williams took every Orange face-off and won 13 of 19, a 68 percent success rate. This helped Syracuse win the ground ball battle, in which they held a 26-19 advantage.

But here's the weird part: despite dominating face-offs and holding a +7 edge in ground balls, Syracuse was out-shot 34-30 and found themselves in a relatively even possession battle, which I think may have even been won by Army.

So, how did that happen? How did we win 68 percent of the face-offs, win the ground ball battle, turn it over three fewer times, and still get out-shot by four with less possession? John Desko thinks he has the answer:

"I think that the way they played us defensively, that's what was happening. We were kind of getting one opportunity to shoot and score, and either their goalie would make the save or they might get a good defensive play or we'd turn the ball over. We didn't get too many of those wide shots where we'd get the ball back, where we're able to circulate our offense, and get more comfortable with our offense".

Syracuse will return to action this Friday when it heads to Charlottesville to take on the Virginia Cavaliers. The game will be both the Orange's first road game and first ACC game of the season. The game will be played at 5:30 pm and will be televised nationally on ESPN U.