When the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse team opens up the ACC portion of their schedule inside the JMA Wireless Dome this Saturday (3 PM on ACCN), they’ll be doing so against the team that mirrors them greatly in roster construction and program placement, the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Much like Syracuse, North Carolina is a team in transition, trying to navigate a world without Chris Gray and figure out how to make it back to the NCAA Tournament.
Head Coach Joe Breschi is attempting to put together a lineup consisting primarily of young players getting their first real chance at the collegiate level mixed with a handful of veteran transfers. Sound familiar?
Their offense is largely playing together for the first time, while their defense is a little more experienced and led by an outstanding presence between the pipes. Much of it aligns with ‘Cuse’s own roster construction.
All their new pieces on offense have had some issues figuring out who will lead the way and what’s the best way for them to attack a defense. While the construction is very similar to SU, you can certainly say they’ve struggled more to put it together in the early going than ‘Cuse has.
After a 25-goal outburst to start the season against a vastly overmatched Mercer, they have only scored 16 goals combined in their last two games against Johns Hopkins (W, 11-7) and Ohio State (L, 8-5).
So far, their offensive production has leaned heavily on their attack of Logan McGovern (No. 1), Sean Goldsmith (No. 8), Lance Tillman (No. 0), and Dewey Egan (No. 21), who sat out last weekend’s Ohio State game.
McGovern (10 points) and Goldsmith (7 points) are the leading scorers and the veteran transfers, coming in this year from Bryant and Mercer, respectively. Lance Tillman and midfielder Henry Schertzinger (No. 2) are really the only veterans who actually played for the Tar Heels offense last year, and they’re joined by a whole group of young players getting their first opportunities to contribute consistently.
Sophomores Johnny Schwarz (No. 6) and Antonio DeMarco (No. 15) are both starting at the midfield for the first time, and freshman James Matan (No. 7) is the 10th ranked freshman in the class. UNC even has their own stud freshman attackman, although SU will not have to worry about seeing him due to a season-ending injury he picked up in the fall. That player is Dom Pietramala, son of Orange defensive coordinator Dave Pietramala and 3rd ranked player in the freshman class.
The Heels’ defense has been their strength so far this season. They have only given up 18 goals in their first three games for an outstanding six goals against average. They did only give up three goals to a weak Mercer team, so that does skew the numbers in their favor. But to their credit, they only gave up seven to Hopkins and eight to Ohio State, so they’re looking very strong in the early going.
While their defense has a few strong veteran presences such as All-American SSDM Connor Maher (No. 31) and Brown transfer Andrew Geppert (No. 9) at close defense, the true stalwart of that unit is goalie Collin Kreig (No. 39).
When you talk about two players who mirror each other, Kreig and Will Mark have both been exceptional in goal so far this season for their teams. Let’s just lay this out nice and simple:
- Collin Kreig: 3 games, 6.55 GAA, .673 save percentage, 12.3 saves per game
- Will Mark: 4 games, 8.01 GAA, .643 save percentage, 13.5 saves per game
I say again, they’ve both been exceptional. Seeing who can stand a little taller in net in this game is going to be fascinating to see and may just go a long way in determining the outcome.
So, both teams have young, new offenses, experienced defenses playing pretty well, and amazing goalie play. But there is one area of the game where they differ greatly so far this season, and I’m sorry to say that it’s the exact part of the game you’re worried it’s not.
The face-off dot has been inconsistent for SU this year, with the most recent memory being a drubbing at the hands of Maryland’s Luke Wierman last weekend. After that performance, Johnny Richiusa is now down to .417 percent (40-of-96) on the season. In contrast, UNC’s Andrew Tyeryar is rolling so far to a .632 win percentage (36-of-57).
The Orange are going to need extra possessions in this game, especially because Collin Kreig makes you work to find the back of the net. ‘Cuse’s efficiency kept them in the Maryland game because they shot 41 percent on limited opportunities, but Kreig is a different level of goalie. We cannot rely on that level of efficiency against him, meaning the quantity of shots must go up for this Syracuse team to emerge victorious on Saturday.