It was one week behind schedule, but the men’s lacrosse offense showed up in a big way on Friday night inside the JMA Dome, where the Syracuse Orange dusted the Albany Great Danes with a 20-7 win to improve to 2-0 on the season.
The performance was everything we were hoping to see from the offense in last week’s season opener, but it was well worth the wait. The Orange controlled this game from start to finish, dominating the Danes in a comprehensive effort.
Joey Spallina, in like fashion, waited an extra week for his true coming out party. And he sure did make it count, scoring five goals to lead the offensive barrage for SU. He showed so much versatility in this game, scoring off the dodge, from off-ball movement, on the catch-and-shoot, and in highlight-reel fashion. He was spectacular.
He wasn’t the only one, as Owen Hiltz scored a hat trick and adding an assist for four points. Jackson Birtwistle scored three goals on three shots, a couple of which were just outstanding. What else is new for him? Alex Simmons brought his passing stick on the night, providing four assists. Cole Kirst added two goals and an assist, and Griffin Cook has a rocket of a goal and an assist, as well. Carter Rice had two goals in transition to round out the players with multi-point games.
It was just a sharper, crisper showing from this young offense, who displayed a much better flow and rhythm with each other. They limited their turnovers to 11 and went a perfect 25-for-25 in the clear game, which was especially great to see after last week’s clearing debacle. They also shot the lights out, going 20-of-43 (.465).
The defense had another strong showing for the second game in a row to start the season. They’ve now surrendered an outstanding 12 goals in two games. They were really strong in the half-field sets, forcing Albany into long possessions, causing them waste chances and just generally making them uncomfortable all night long.
Will Mark was once again excellent between the pipes. He finished with 14 saves while only giving up seven goals, a .667 save percentage. The dude is just on fire to start the season. You simply can’t have a better start to your SU career than Will Mark is having.
Johnny Richiusa had a strong day overall, getting the better of the Albany FOGOs and winning 17-of-29 restarts (.586). There were stretches when he struggled, particularly in the first half, but he dominated the second half to finish with a great day.
Lastly, both the man-up and man-down units both had great days. The Orange’s EMO was such a weakness last year, but they’re off to an excellent start this season. They were 4-for-5 on the night, while the man-down unit held Albany to 2-of-6 on their chances.
This game was exactly the kind of improvement between game one and game two that you would want any team to show. You simply love to see it.
The Orange didn’t wait around in this one after the slow start last week. They scored their opener just 35 seconds in on a nice feed from Owen Hiltz to Jackson Birtwistle, who finished on an even better shot that pinged the net for his second goal a few minutes later.
After a Cole Kirst alley-dodge goal, Spallina got on the board with back-to-back goals to give SU a 5-1 lead at the end of the first.
Carter Rice got on the board just 10 seconds into the second quarter. After a couple Albany goals, Spallina scored a highlight-reel goal as he dove between two defenders, taking an overhand shot as he dove for the goal (see below):
Luke Rhoa scored the first goal of his career on an absolute laser-beam shot, followed by a quick-release goal from Owen Hiltz, and ‘Cuse took a 9-4 lead into halftime after a solid first 30 minutes.
If the first half was solid, then the second half was outstanding. The third quarter was an absolute goal-fest, as the two teams combined for 10 goals, with SU scoring seven of them. Spallina got his fourth out in front of goal off a nice feed from Griffin Cook.
After Jackson Birtwistle scored a gorgeous backhanded goal in the upper corner to put SU up 13-6 midway through the third, Scott Marr picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing after the referees made a questionable overturn call. Spallina and Hiltz made him pay with back-to-back goals 10 seconds apart on the ensuing man-up, which gave ‘Cuse their biggest lead of the night to that point, 15-7.
The Orange went on to score five more unanswered goals, including the first season goals for Griffin Cook and Blake Erlbeck, and the first career goals for Michael Leo and Carter Kempney.
The rout was on by the late third quarter, as Syracuse turned this game into a near-football final score. The 13-goal victory is the largest in series history.
Gary Gait and the boys will be back in action in less than 48 hours, when they take the field at 1 PM on Super Bowl Sunday for the back-half of their weekend twofer. The game will be shown on ACC Network Extra.