On Friday night, the Syracuse Orange men's lacrosse team traveled south to Charlottesville, VA to take on the Virginia Cavaliers in the first ACC game of the season. They defeated the Wahoos by a score of 14-13, another in a long line of good games and close finishes between these two storied programs.
The Orange did not have their best overall performance, as they made physical and mental mistakes throughout the game, but they showed tremendous fight and poise in a tough road environment against a good team. After getting up 13-8 early in the fourth quarter, Virginia fought back and went on a 4-0 run to bring the deficit to one goal with eight and a half minutes to go. But Syracuse called a timeout, regained their composure, and held off the Cavaliers to remain perfect on the young season.
So, what can we takeaway from Syracuse's first ACC game of the season?
Clean Up On Aisle 4...
In their fourth game of the season, the Orange had probably their sloppiest game yet. In the first half alone, they had eight turnovers and committed a ridiculous six penalties. For the game, Syracuse finished with 16 turnovers and seven penalties.
That is far too many mistakes for Syracuse, a combination of physical and mental lapses that provided Virginia ample opportunities to put more points on the board. The Cavaliers capitalized, converting on 4 of 6 extra-man opportunities. Making this many mistakes is something that will mitigate the effect of Ben Williams's performance at the face-off X. While Ben went 18-29 (.620) on draws in the game, Syracuse got out shot 38-31 by the Cavaliers, due at least in part to their 16 turnovers on the night.
The penalties are a potentially bigger concern for the Orange. After committing zero in their season opening win against Siena, they have committed a combined 15 in their three games since. That is a trend that simply cannot continue as the Orange head into the real meat of their schedule when they face the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays, the Duke Blue Devils, and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in three consecutive games, two of which are on the road.
The Orange are going to have to clean up their play in order to keep picking up resume building wins.
It may have been a sloppy night for Syracuse, but when they actually got their shots off, they did so very efficiently. The Orange had their best shooting day of the season, finding the back of the net on 14 of their 31 shots. That's a shooting percentage of 45 percent, which is excellent for lacrosse. Syracuse was also efficient on their man-up play, where the Orange were able to convert on three of their four opportunities.
Shooting efficiency was especially important for Syracuse on a night when they gave away so many possessions through their mistakes. If not for their great shooting game, it would have been a very different story in Klockner Stadium on Friday night.
We all know that Syracuse likes to share the ball on offense, and the result of that is usually a very diverse box score. Friday night was another example of that, as all six of the Orange's offensive starters recorded at least two points.
Syracuse's starting attack combined for six goals and six assists. Dylan Donahue and Tim Barber lead the way for the Orange offense with five points apiece, while Jordan Evans tacked on two points.
Meanwhile, the Orange first line midfield tallied eight goals and three assists. Sergio Salcido had a career high four points, while Derek DeJoe and Nick Mariano each put up hat tricks, with DeJoe matching a career high of four points.
"Our offense is designed for kids to be open on shots that they wouldn't normally be," said Tim Barber. "We trust every kid out there on the field that if he takes a shot, it's going to be a good one. I think that gives us positive energy knowing there's not just one guy on the field, but that it's all six of us working together".
This is an offense that is still trying to find its rhythm and the right combinations that work well with each other, but in this game, they did a pretty nice job of finding each other and connecting for some really nice goals. That is, when they weren't turning the ball over, of course.
How about this for a rivalry?
They only started playing each other in men's lacrosse in 1994, but the 22 year history of the Syracuse-Virginia rivalry has been as good as it gets, and the stats fully back that up.
In their 32 meetings against each other all-time, the series is now tied 16-16. And what's the total number of goals each team has scored in the series, you ask? Well, that would be 416 goals for Syracuse and 416 goals for Virginia. The teams have now met 10 times since 2008, and six of those 10 games have been decided by one goal.
I think it's saying the absolute least to categorize this as one of the most exciting rivalries in all of college lacrosse. Syracuse head coach John Desko apparently agrees:
"I look over the years, it's a face paced game. One and two goal games many times over the years, so we didn't expect anything else".
Thankfully, for the entertainment of college lacrosse fans, their expectations were met.
Syracuse will return to action next Saturday, March 12th, when they play host to the St. John's Red Storm at 4 pm in the Carrier Dome. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN 3.