We all have our memories of how last season went down for the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse team.
The face-offs were a disaster. The offense was productive, especially relative to how much they had the ball. The defense struggled while under constant pressure, and Will Mark saved the day as much as he could.
In the end, the team went 8-7, missed out on the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year, and moved on to year three of the Gary Gait era.
Today, I thought we’d take a brief look back at some of the most pertinent numbers that helped make up the story of last year’s team, and think about how it might play out this spring:
- SCORING OFFENSE — 14.33 goals per game, 12th in NCAA
- ASSISTS PER GAME — 8.67 per game, T-6th in NCAA
- POINTS PER GAME — 23.00 per game, 6th in NCAA
- SHOOTING PERCENTAGE — 33.6 percent, T-7th in NCAA
- MAN-UP OFFENSE — 56.5 percent, 3rd in NCAA
- MAN-UP GOALS — 39 total goals, 1st in NCAA (11 more than 2nd place)
- MAN-DOWN DEFENSE — 67.7 percent success, 18th in NCAA
- TURNOVERS PER GAME — 12.4 per game, 2nd in NCAA
- CLEARING PERCENTAGE — 89.0 percent success rate, 19th in NCAA
- SAVES PER GAME — 14.33 per game, 7th in NCAA
- CAUSED TURNOVERS PER GAME — 8.47 per game, 25th in NCAA
Obviously, statistics alone do not tell the entire story of a season, but it’s interesting to see how many offensive categories the Orange ranked inside or just outside of the Top 10 in the nation. I think it’s an amazing credit to this unit that they were able to finish 12th in the country in scoring offense despite their possession issues. How did they do it exactly?
Well, let’s see. They shot very efficiently, finishing the season tied for seventh in the country with a 33.6 shooting percentage. They also took care of the ball, for the most part, finishing the season second nationally with 12.4 turnovers per game. They didn’t have the ball as much as they wanted to, but they valued the ball properly when they had it in their crosses.
It’s pretty tantalizing to imagine what this offense can do if the revamped face-off unit can get them the ball even a little more consistently this year.
On top of the efficiency, they also just crushed teams when they dared to commit penalties against them. ‘Cuse’s EMO unit punished teams all season long, converting an amazing 56.5 percent of their man-up chances. That was good for third in the nation, but the amount of penalties committed against them meant they led the country overall with 39 total EMO goals, an incredible 11 more than the country’s second-best number.
Their clearing percentage was pretty solid overall (19th in NCAA at 89 percent), and was another good sign of taking care of the ball, although I’d love to see that number bump above the 90 percent line this year.
The majority of the positive stats last year were based around the offense, but how about a shout out to the man-down defense for finishing Top 20 in the country (18th) in not allowing goals. The bad news was that SU gave up the 11th most man-up chances to their opponents (62), but the good news is that their opponents only went 20-for-62, meaning that 67.7 percent of the time the man-down unit didn't give up a goal. That’s actually some impressive work for a team that felt defensively challenged a lot of the time.
- FACE-OFF PERCENTAGE — 41.9 percent, 64th in NCAA
- GROUND BALLS PER GAME — 27.93 per game, 59th in NCAA
- SCORING DEFENSE — 12.13 goals per game, 44th in NCAA
We all remember the pain of watching the Orange consistently lose restarts last season, but I still find it kind of jarring to see 41.9 percent written down as the team’s win percentage. I’m almost surprised that number put them 64th in the country instead of even lower.
Before last season, I would have thought low 40’s was almost unimaginable, even for such a young and inexperienced group. Of course, the 59th-ranked ground ball numbers are, at least in part, directly related to the FO struggles. Those are two of the most important single stats in the sport, and will definitely be big question marks on which this team’s success will hinge.
The biggest negatives from 2023 all branch off from the struggles at the face-off dot. As we look ahead to this year’s team, so much of their success feels like it begins with that win rate, which subsequently impacts the ground ball numbers and the scoring defense numbers.
Time will tell, but for my money, the revamped FO unit, the improved depth on defense, and the return of Will Mark will combine to put this team in a much better position to have success than how it all played out last season on the field and the stat sheet.