During the week, Gary Gait was brutally honest in his assessment of his team’s next game.
He said he thought Duke was more talented, but that his team’s camaraderie and chemistry could be their advantage in the matchup.
I’m not sure he was right about the more talented part, but one thing is for sure: his Syracuse Orange team played easily their best game of the season in their 14-10 win over the No. 11 Duke Blue Devils on Saturday, helping Gait pick up the biggest win of his young men’s coaching career.
Something else that’s for sure: the best player on the field plays for Syracuse. That would be Tucker Dordevic, who scored five goals in a game for the fifth time in eight games this season. That’s ridiculous, but not nearly as ridiculous as Dordevic’s fifth goal of the game, which quite frankly is one of the greatest goals I’ve ever seen.
THIS. IS. SICK.— Syracuse Men’s Lacrosse (@CuseMLAX) March 26, 2022
#SCTop10 number one overall play and goal of the year. Lock ‘em both up now.
Outside of Dordevic’s heroics, we saw a Syracuse team today that has grown so much over the course of this season. At one point early in the game, analyst Matt Ward commented that he was seeing the Orange play with more belief on the offensive end. He was absolutely right. The boys clearly came out and played with more conviction in their movement, their passing and their creating of scoring chances than we’ve seen all season. They created chances to the tune of 61 shots (versus only 33 for Duke).
We saw a defense play with energy and not be afraid to get physical with Duke, which helped get stops and create a ton of turnovers. We saw a great effort from Jakob Phaup (16-of-28) versus a nemesis of his in Jake Naso, against whom Phaup went 1-of-10 last year. We saw a ride game that continues to create havoc for Orange opponents, causing seven failed clears from Duke.
It wasn't all rosy from a ‘Cuse perspective. After an absolutely dominating first 25 minutes in which the Orange raced out to a 7-1 lead, the Blue Devils started to slowly build momentum starting in the late second quarter and throughout the third. During that time, the Blue Devils went on a 8-3 run to go into the fourth quarter will all the momentum and just a one-goal deficit.
It wasn’t looking particularly good at that point for SU, but that’s when the team showed off their toughness and their fight by halting Duke’s momentum and dominating the final 15 minutes to take home their biggest and best win of the season to improve to 4-4 and 1-1 in ACC play.
Dordevic led the way with 7 points on five goals and two assists. Owen Seebold had four points (2G, 2A) while Brendan Curry added three (2G, 1A). Mikey Berkman and freshman Matteo Corsi each scored two goals, as well. Bobby Gavin was once again strong in cage with 10 saves and a .500 save percentage, while the defense was incredible in getting 12 caused turnovers from Duke.
We've got it rolling a bit.— Syracuse Men’s Lacrosse (@CuseMLAX) March 26, 2022
Highlights from a Dome dub. pic.twitter.com/rSg4MsM567
The Orange came out and set the tone early with the physicality, energy and conviction in their play. Matteo Corsi opened the scoring when Jacob Buttermore found him open with space and time. Saam Olexo followed with a rocket to finish a nice transition sequence.
After Duke got on the board to make it 2-1, the Orange rattled off three in a row to close the quarter on a snipe by Mikey Berkman, a plant-and-turn by Tucker Dordevic and a goal on the run by Brendan Curry to close the first with a 5-1 lead.
The second quarter stated off with much the same momentum for ‘Cuse, as Owen Seebold got on the board coming from behind goal-line extended, and then Berkman beat the shot clock to get his second and put the Orange up 7-1 midway through the quarter. Duke would close with momentum of their own, however, scoring three of the last four to go into halftime down, 8-4.
Duke’s momentum continued into the second half. The teams traded the first four goals of the third quarter, including two SU goals from Dordevic, but the Blue Devils scored three in a row to close a 5-2 quarter for Duke to bring the Orange lead down to one entering the final frame.
But in the fourth, the Orange punched back. Facing the momentum on a 8-3 Duke run, ‘Cuse showed their toughness in dominating the fourth quarter, outscoring the Blue Devils, 4-1, to secure the 14-10 win.
The Orange are back on the road next week when they remain in conference for another difficult ACC matchup with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish next Saturday, April 2 at 2 PM on ESPN U.