You’ve heard the expression that possession is nine-tenths of the law?
That concept ran true on Saturday afternoon down in College Park, as the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse team dropped their first game of the season in a 15-12 loss to the Maryland Terrapins.
Fought to the finish.— Syracuse Men’s Lacrosse (@CuseMLAX) February 18, 2023
Back at the Dome next week.#HHH x #LikeNoOther pic.twitter.com/bZgGQWLeu0
The Orange did not play a good game of lacrosse overall; there were deficiencies on both ends of the field. But no deficiency was greater than the “battle” of Johnny Richiusa versus Luke Wierman at the face-off X.
Wierman is one of the best FOGOs in the country, and he asserted his authority in this game to the tune of 24-of-31 on restarts, a .774 winning percentage. His dominance had ‘Cuse playing catch-up all day long as the defense was under consistent pressure and the offense was reduced to a passenger’s role in the game.
The Terps out-shot the Orange, 50-29. SU shot the ball great in this game, finishing with a .414 shooting percentage on 12-of-29. They shot way better than MD’s 30 percent (15-of-50), but taking 21 fewer shots was just too much to overcome.
Jackson Birtwistle led the goal scoring with a hat trick and Owen Hiltz joined him with a three-point day (1G, 2A). Joey Spallina, who was mostly kept quiet due to the Orange primarily attacking offensively against the Maryland short-sticks, finished with two points on an assist and a spectacular no-look, back-to-goal shot in the fourth quarter (see below). Michael Leo (2G) and Alex Simmons (1G, 1A) also had two-point days.
SPALLINA BTB MISSILE— USA Lacrosse Magazine (@USALacrosseMag) February 18, 2023
The @CuseMLAX phenom ripped that so quickly, Dolan couldn’t react.@TerpsMLax still leads 13-10. pic.twitter.com/xMthYd1yHK
On the defensive end, Will Mark did absolutely everything he could to keep his team in the game, which he did by making 19 saves for a .559 save percentage. He was great, using both his stick and his body to deflect whatever he could get in front of. But in the end, there were too many defensive possessions to play against.
The defense had an uneven day. We saw a lot more of the defensive rotation struggles today than we have so far this season; there were a lot of Maryland shooters left with time-and-room to get a shot off. I also lost track of how many penalties the team committed in this game. I think it was at least seven.
Honestly, when you consider how many possessions Maryland had plus how many times we went man-down, I don’t even think 15 goals is that bad of a number to give up. Sure, Will Mark came to the rescue a bunch, but it wasn’t all bad from the defense. They did force a lot of MD turnovers, led by Saam Olexo who threw a couple of phenomenal overhead checks to jar the ball loose.
There’s plenty to clean up from this game, but my bottom line is that losing by only three against a talented Maryland team when the team spent most of the day without the ball isn’t that bad of a result. They stayed within touching distance and competed despite the possession disadvantage.
Seeing Nick Caccamo diving towards the sideline to earn his team an extra possession with just a few minutes to play and down by four made me feel good about the fight this team is willing to show. Obviously we wanted the win, but all the pieces are there to pick up some quality wins this season if we can just win a few more restarts (or a lot more would also be good).
Throw this performance away from Richiusa. Wierman is simply too good. There’ll be better days ahead for the young Orange FOGO.
The Orange will look to bounce back at home next Saturday when they host North Carolina in the ACC opener at 3 PM on the ACC Network.