So, you might have heard...its been a week for Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse.
It started with Chase Scanlan inexplicably being reinstated to the team on Monday after only a week of being indefinitely suspended.
It continued with reports that his teammates found out he had been reinstated via Twitter, and that they planned to walk out of practice if he showed up.
On Wednesday, we got the report that Scanlan’s initial suspension was due to a “domestic police call” the night of the Orange’s loss to North Carolina.
There will be more to come from the Scanlan situation. But for now, it’s the weekend, and Scanlan will not be present as Syracuse travels to South Bend for a game with massive postseason implications against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The game is Saturday at 12 PM on ESPN U.
Okay, sorry, I’m not quite done with this yet.
The thing is, it’s an unavoidable topic for SU lacrosse right now. It’s been talked about all week by media and fans alike. It will be talked about on the broadcast on Saturday.
And that’s the point: it’s a distraction. It’s been a giant mess of a situation that has been made much worse by the way it was mishandled by a total lack of leadership from within the athletic department, to the point where the team captains were the ones exhibiting the most leadership of anybody. Not a good look all-around.
But this distraction can go either way come game day. Will a lack of focus and energy define their performance in this all-important ACC clash? Or will the team be galvanized by a very tough week that saw the players take a stand and demand more from AD John Wildhack and their administration?
This game is huge for the NCAA seeding of both teams. The Orange have a chance to not just make the tournament (which I believe they’ve already done with last week’s win), but actually earn a solid seed, as well. Despite all the focus on Scanlan, the team will not have forgotten the importance of this game, and I think they’ll play like it.
Let’s talk Jakob Phaup, specifically in ACC games this season:
- vs. Virginia: 46-of-60, 77 percent, 17 GBs in 2 games
- vs. everyone else: 6-of-29, 21 percent, 2 GBs in 3 games
What does this tell us? That face-offs are just a really weird game sometimes.
Phaup is totally dominant against Petey LaSalla (a Tewaaraton nominee and one of the best FOGOs in the country), but has been a disaster against the other ACC specialists. Phaup has a style and technique that apparently matches-up perfectly with LaSalla’s style and technique, but it hasn’t translated outside of the UVA matchup.
Last week, Phaup’s 24 face-off wins were the most by a SU player since 2003 and sixth-most in program history. Last time out against Notre Dame, Phaup had exactly...one face-off win.
Phaup doesn't need to be reaching all-time face-off lists in this game, but he (or Danny Varello or Jack Savage) need to do more than the first game against ND (28 percent) or we’ll be looking at a long afternoon.
Defending Pat Kavanagh
In the first meeting, Pat Kavanagh exploded for a nine point day (4G, 5A). He exposed the Syracuse defense, picking them apart in every manner: passing, dodging, and scoring.
Kavanagh is the architect of the Notre Dame offense — everything runs through him. He leads the Irish with 49 points on the season. ND’s second-leading scorer is Griffin Westlin with 22 points.
Kavanagh more than doubles-up the production of everyone else on the team. The key to stopping Notre Dame’s offense begins and ends with stopping him.
So how do the Orange plan on doing that? Will they turn back to Mitch Wykoff, who has drawn the opposition’s top attacker all season long? Or will they feel a more dramatic adjustment is necessary given the way Kavanagh lead ND to 18 goals the first time?
Whatever the game plan, the Orange defense needs to hold the Irish offense down as much as possible since Notre Dame is so difficult to score goals on.
After a very strong start to his super-senior season in which he was over 60 percent on saves in four of the first five games, Drake has stumbled through much of ACC play in the last month.
In all of the last four ACC games, Drake has been under 50 percent on saves. Now, some of that is not his fault as the Orange’s struggles at the face-off X are directly connected too how much defense the team has been forced to play. As a result, Drake has been inundated with way too many shots for any goalie to come away cleanly from.
Nevertheless, Drake is still one of the best goalies in the country, and SU desperately needs him to play like it in order to have a chance in this one.
Attacking the Irish D
We all know Notre Dame’s defense is really good because, you know, it’s always really good.
This year is certainly no exception as a graduate student/senior laden close defense leads this unit to being one of the stingiest defenses in the country.
In five ACC games this year, the Irish are averaging 11.2 goals against per game — right on the number they held SU to in the first game.
The Orange offense needs to be cohesive to find success against this group. Individually, guys like Jack Kielty, Kyle Thornton and Arden Cohen have amazing athleticism and quickness, making them very difficult to beat off an individual dodge.
That means the passing will need to be crisp, efficient and intelligent to stay ahead of ND’s defensive movement. The movement of the six SU players will also need to be smart in order to create spacing they can take advantage of.
I actually believe the presence of Owen Seebold could be a good thing for this offense to help promote consistent ball movement and unselfishness. SU has a lot of lacrosse talent out there that has been dormant for stretches this season (see: Jamie Trimboli), and they’re going to need to put up more than 11 goals this time unless the defense can put up a much better showing this time around.
Alright, that just about does it. We’ve come to the end of a very long week and are officially ready for some lacrosse to happen.
I assume the team feels the same way, and are ready to come out of the gates like a team on fire.
So come join the ESPN U party at 12 PM on Saturday and see if ‘Cuse can pick up another massive victory and get some revenge on the Irish in the process.
Let’s Go Orange!!!