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Syracuse men’s lacrosse: Orange outclassed by Virginia in 19-12 rout

Lots of progress has been made, but the Orange are not yet ready for this fight.

NCAA LACROSSE: MAY 14 Div I Men’s Tournament - Virginia at Brown Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse team has made lot of progress over the course of the 2023 season, and came into today’s ACC matchup off back-to-back ranked wins, but this was one fight they are not yet ready to win as they got lit up by the No. 4/3 Virginia Cavaliers, 19-12, on Saturday afternoon down in Charlottesville.

The Orange were never really in this one as the Cavaliers scored the first six goals of the game to jump out to an immediate huge lead. ‘Cuse would never get closer than four goals the entire rest of the game as they played mistake-prone lacrosse and spent the whole afternoon chasing an opponent they were never going to catch up to.

When you play a team with the quality of Virginia, you know that you need to play as clean a game as possible in order to give yourself the best chance to win; and that’s exactly what the Orange didn’t do. They shot themselves in the foot time and time again, playing a very sloppy and mistake-filled game that put them so far behind the eight-ball that they had no chance.

The Virginia offense did the rest, doing exactly what the best teams do when their opponents make mistakes by punishing them and capitalizing on virtually every second chance they were given.

Their offense, the highest-scoring unit in the country, is an absolute beast, and they proved it all day long by going on separate runs of 6-0, 4-0, and 4-0 throughout the game. Every time ‘Cuse would punch back with a goal or two or even three in a row, the Cavs would come right back with one of those massive runs to not just get the advantage back but extend it. They spent the whole day simply keeping SU at an arms’ length with at least a four-goal cushion for essentially the entire game.

The Orange defense had a nightmare of a day as they were bombarded with the barrage of 60 Virginia shots. Interestingly, the biggest culprit to that number was not an awful day at the face-off dot, as expected. SU did lose the FO battle, but only by a tally of 19-15, a 44 percent success rate that’s not great but also not the complete disaster I was expecting against UVA’s Petey LaSalla. No, the biggest culprit was the 15 ‘Cuse turnovers that led to so much extra time on the field for the Orange defense. 11 of those turnovers happened in the first half. After 30 minutes of play, SU had taken 15 shots and turned it over 11 times. Not going to cut it.

The defense itself was being given the run-around by the Wahoos’ attack, and they did not handle it well. There were ill-timed slides and wide open Virginia shooters all game long. They looked lost right from the outset. I felt like I was watching a game from last year.

The Orange offense was inconsistent with the way they were attacking. They found their best success when they were moving the ball quickly and creatively, or improvising from the two-man game like they’re so good at doing. As a result, 9 of their 12 goals on the day were assisted. But I didn’t think they did enough of it, and their dodging was very ineffective outside of the work of Cole Kirst (3G, 1A), who scored all three of his goals unassisted off the dodge. That strategy did not work for anyone else, and yet they did too much of it.

Let’s put it this way for the offense. It’s never a good day when Max Rosa (no offense, Max) outscores Joey Spallina. Seriously.

Kirst, Alex Simmons (4G), and Owen Hiltz (1G, 3A) led the way for the offense with four points each. Rosa (1G, 1A) and Finn Thomson (2A) both had two points. Spallina was shut down by UVA’s Cade Saustad, finishing with only one assist.

Will Mark did what he could with 15 saves, but there was just way too much of a Virginia onslaught in this one for him to stop the bloodbath. This was the sixth game this season in which Mark has seen the opponent unleash 50 or more shots in a game. It’s been a tsunami at times for Will this year.

Looking for something positive coming out of this game? Alex Simmons’ fourth goal of the day, scored when the game was long out of reach with less than two minutes to go, was one of the absolute sickest goals I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Serious goal of the year candidate right here:

See, it wasn’t all bad.

The Orange will be back in action for what will almost certainly be there last game of the season next weekend when they once again travel down to Durham on Saturday, April 29 to face the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils at 12 PM on ESPNU.