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No. 9 Syracuse men's lacrosse overpowered by No. 2 Virginia, 20-11

Too many SU mistakes and too much UVA quality on this day in Charlottesville.

Virginia v Syracuse Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

The last two weeks, the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse team has proven two things. One: they have a lot of heart and fight in them. And two: they don’t have enough talent right now to ultimately hang with the top teams in the country despite that heart.

On Saturday afternoon, ‘Cuse lost their first road trip of the season, 20-11, to the No. 2 ranked Virginia Cavaliers in a game of big runs.

Check out the three big scoring phases of this game:

  1. Virginia opened the game on a 8-1 run in the first quarter.
  2. SU fought back over the next quarter and a half, going on a 8-4 run to close the gap to three.
  3. The Cavaliers then scored seven in a row to put the game well out of reach after SU looked like they were getting right back into it.

Ultimately, the Orange were outclassed by UVA’s overall talent, depth and tenacity in the ground ball game. The Cavaliers won the ground ball battle 40-30 and the face-offs 21-11 as Petey LaSalla got his revenge on Jakob Phaup.

While you do have to credit the Cavs and the way they play the game, SU gave Virginia way too many second-chance opportunities in this game via loose ball pickups and costly turnovers, which the home team was more than happy to turn into goals that made the Orange’s comeback hopes futile. That's what makes Virginia such an incredibly dangerous team. Their talent is already overwhelming, but when you pair it with the effort they give in the ride and ground ball games, they become deadly.

It also didn’t help that for the second straight game against a top team, ‘Cuse got off to a very slow start. They were flatter than the Cavs out of the gate, which allowed them to build a huge first quarter lead that was just too much to overcome. Slow starts like this cannot become the norm for the Orange, because the teams on our very difficult schedule will punish us for that.

SU was led on the day by Mikey Berkman’s four points (2G, 2A) and three points each from Griffin Cook (3G), Lucas Quinn (2G, 1A) and Brendan Curry (1G, 2A). Owen Seebold had two goals, and Tucker Dordevic was held to just one goal after scoring 10 in the first two games. Bobby Gavin did pretty much everything he could in this one, making 12 saves in his return to Charlottesville.

The Cavs scored the first four goals of the game, most of which scored in unsettled situations for the Orange defense. The first was scored in transition. The second was on a loose ball pick-up off a Bobby Gavin save. The third was directly off a careless SU turnover in their defensive end. Virginia’s offense is talented enough, so giving them unsettled opportunities like these is a recipe for disaster for an already overmatched Syracuse.

Seebold finally got ‘Cuse on the board with a spectacular individual effort, pulling an escape act by backing his way out of a triple-team to put one in.

Unfortunately, that was only a momentary respite from the UVA onslaught. The Cavs, who unleashed 18 shots in the first, scored four straight goals in the final four minutes to close the first quarter with an emphatic 8-1 lead.

The second quarter is when SU finally started to get into the game, as the offense looked to be moving the ball better and finding the right creases against UVA’s defense. The Orange actually outscored the Cavs, 4-3 in the second, part of a larger 8-4 run that went through the middle of the third quarter.

‘Cuse had brought the deficit down to just three when they made it 12-9, looking like they might have a chance to at least keep it a game the rest of the way like they did against Maryland. They even had the ball with a chance to bring it to two.

But that’s when Griffin Cook decided to get too cute with the ball, throwing a behind-the-back pass on a dodge down the right alley that was knocked down for a turnover. Virginia brought the ball down the field and scored in transition, punishing Cook for the silly mistake.

In fact, Cook’s turnover ended up sparking the 7-0 UVA run over the next roughly seven minutes that ended any Orange hopes at a comeback.

It’s not fair to put all that on Griffin Cook. There were so many things that went wrong during that subsequent run that were not Cook’s fault; things that his teammates could have done better to quell the Cavaliers’ run. But, given a possession and a chance to bring the deficit to two, Cook’s completely needless turnover took away a chance to really put the pressure on Virginia.

We’ll never know what would have happened if the Orange could have scored on that possession, but it’s probably safe to assume that, in a rivalry that’s been as close as close can be over the years, this was a day in which Virginia just had too much quality for Syracuse.

There’s not much time for SU to right the ship, something they absolutely have to do to make sure this season doesn’t spiral before we get too deep into March. The Orange will be back in action for a mid-week game this Wednesday, March 2 at home against Army. The game is at 4:30 PM and will be televised on ACC Network.