On a day when Syracuse University was honoring the magic of one of their most beloved sons, the great Mike Powell, there was no magic to be found for the current edition of the Syracuse Orange men's lacrosse team.
The Orange dropped yet another tough game to a ranked opponent with their hard-fought, 11-9 loss to rival Johns Hopkins on Saturday evening. The loss is ‘Cuse’s fourth in a row and drops them to 3-4 on the season. It’s also the ninth game in a row SU has lost to a ranked team.
Final.#HHH x #LikeNoOther pic.twitter.com/HCeZVijreK— Syracuse Men’s Lacrosse (@CuseMLAX) March 11, 2023
It was a grueling battle of a game marked by smash-mouth, physical play, toughness, and a whole lot of yellow laundry on the field (12 penalties in total). It was exactly the type of meeting you expect between two old rivals.
To that point, neither team led by more than two goals at any point in the game. The Orange scored the first two goals of the game, and Hopkins scored with 35 seconds left to set their winning margin at two. Everything in between was either a one-goal difference or a tie.
Unfortunately for SU, they just didn’t make the plays at the end of the game to come out on top. Up 9-8 with less than 10 minutes to go in the game, ‘Cuse committed multiple turnovers when they had the ball with a chance to extend the lead to two. They couldn’t do it.
After Hopkins tied and took a 10-9 lead, Jack Fine and the FO unit, which had done a solid job up to that point, lost back-to-back face-offs that allowed the Blue Jays to maintain possession and helped them in taking late control of the game.
They never really got any good looks at cage during that final home stretch, save for one Jackson Birtwistle look that goalie Tim Marcille turned away for his final save in an incredible 21-save performance that was one of the main culprits in the Orange loss.
Owen Hiltz and Joey Spallina, who led the offense on the day with four points a piece, scored a combined zero points in the second half.
The talent is there for this team, but as a young group, they’re just having trouble putting it all together and making the types of plays late in games that get you Ws. That’s not totally unexpected from such a young team, but it just leads to a lot of frustration as this program continues to search for big wins in big spots.
For stretches of the night, it felt like this was SU’s most complete game against a quality opponent this season. The face-offs were finally there more consistently (12-11 SU), which led to much more even ground ball (27-24 JHU) and shot numbers (42-40 SU) between the teams.
The defense wasn’t under as much pressure all night long, and while not being perfect, they played a pretty solid game overall (and that’s with Landon Clary going down off the opening FO and not returning). They forced an impressive 11 Hopkins turnovers.
Will Mark played well, but it was his counterpart who was the ultimate difference maker in this one. Marcille made 21 saves while only surrendering nine goals, a 70 percent SV%. He shut down many quality chances for the ‘Cuse offense and took a handful of goals off the board.
Hiltz (3G, 1A) and Spallina (1G, 3A) led the scoring. Finn Thomson (2G, 1A) added three points, and Michael Leo (2G) had a pair of goals. Gary Gait may well have found his new FOGO in Jack Fine (8-of-14), who did a nice job after coming on midway through the first half for Johnny Richiusa. To be fair to Richiusa, he was 4-of-9 before being taken out, but Fine was just better.
The frustration remains for a program that just can't seem to win a big game these days, but I think the growth is happening for a team defined mostly by its youth.
The Orange will be back on the field soon when they hit the road for a midweek clash out on the Island with Hofstra. The game will be Tuesday, March 14 at 7 PM on LacrosseTV (look it up).