The Army Black Knights men’s lacrosse team (3-1) will head to the Carrier Dome on Sunday to face off with the Syracuse Orange in a top-10 matchup. Understanding the magnitude of this early season battle, the Orange will have to bring their best to come out victorious and stay unbeaten.
What makes the Army lacrosse team so dynamic, and how can Syracuse slow them down?
One of the things that makes Army so tough to defend against is their plethora of playmakers at all times. The season is two weeks in, but the Black Knights have had four starters make the Patriot League team of the week in both instances. Wyatt Schupler and Marcus Hudgins repeated as goalie and defensive player of the week, while Jacob Morin and Stevie Grabher took home Rookie of the Week and faceoff specialist honors.
While often overlooked, a team needs to possess the ball right out of the gate to apply pressure, and no team has done that better than the Orange. Syracuse ranks first in the nation in faceoff win percentage — a big reason why the team averages 19 goals per game. Junior Jakob Phaup and Senior Danny Varrello both rank top-14 in the nation, helping Syracuse control the ball right away.
Ground ball focus
In the context of the matchup with Army, however, the Orange may have a much tougher time controlling the middle of the field. Army freshman Stevie Grabher set a new career high with 9 ground balls secured, and has improved his faceoff percent to .786 (22/28) while adding a goal and two assists.
“We know how great they are on ground balls, so we’ve been preparing for that. I think we need to take care of the ball on offense, be extra careful so we can get those extra possessions and make them count,” said Stephen Rehfuss when asked about how the Orange are preparing for the ground game this weekend. The Black Knights have the personnel to match-up with SU, but whoever executes their set plays better will heighten their team’s chances of winning. Army presents a challenge that the team has not experienced yet, but the Orange believe they will be ready come game time.
If there is one thing to count on from coach John Desko, he will have his team ready from the faceoff. The second-winningest coach in Syracuse history and second-winningest coach in the NCAA currently, getting severely outcoached is not a potential issue here... of course, it also hasn’t been in previous editions of this matchup, and that hasn’t stopped the Orange from getting upset just the same.
Syracuse and Army face off on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in the Carrier Dome. You can catch the game on the radio at TK 99/105 and watch it on ACCNX (streaming).