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Syracuse Lacrosse: The big Virginia preview

Syracuse travels down to my neck of the woods to face the Cavaliers on Sunday.

Towson v Virginia Photo by Jay Paul/Getty Images


School: Virginia

Mascot: Cavaliers

Coach: Lars Tiffany

Location: Charlottesville, VA

Conference: ACC

Game Location: Charlottesville, VA

Game Time: 3 PM (SUNDAY!)

Television/Radio: ACC Network Extra / TK99/105

Weather: 53 degrees, sunny with a 45% chance of precipitation

All-Time Syracuse Record Vs. Opponent: 17-16

Previous Matchup: 14-13 Syracuse Win

Opponent Ranking: #5

Quick Facts

2018 Record: 4-0

2018 Conference Record: 0-0

2017 Conference Postseason Results: Did Not Qualify

2017 NCAA Tournament Postseason Results: Did Not Qualify

2018 Team Statistics

Total Goals– Shot Attempts: 62-183

Total Opponent Goals– Shot Attempts: 47-168

EMO Goals (Percentage): 3 (.300)

EMO Goals Against (Opp. Percentage): 6 (.333)

Team Shooting Percentage: .339

Opponent Shooting Percentage: .280

Shots on Goal Percentage: .607

Opponent Shots on Goal Percentage: .548

Groundballs: 159

Opponent Groundballs: 128

Turnovers: 57

Caused Turnovers: 34

Faceoffs: 80/124 (.645)

Clearing Percentage: .889

Opponent Clearing Percentage: .899

Penalties: 16 PIM

Welcome to ACC play! On Sunday, the Syracuse Orange will travel to the great Commonwealth of Virginia the ACC opener. Let’s take a look at what’s going on.

...The More You Know!

· The last time Syracuse played a top five UVA team was in 2015, a 15-9 victory for the number 2 Orange. The last time a top five UVA team beat a Syracuse team was in 2014, a 17-12 win for the fourth ranked Cavaliers over the eighth ranked Orange.

· The last two games between these two teams has ended in a one-goal game.

· Since 2013 UVA is 1-19 in ACC play, the one win coming against Syracuse in its first year as an ACC member.

Syracuse Keys

· With a freshman goalie in net making his second start and coming off of a game where he allowed 15 goals, the Orange need to get some momentum early and see if they can rattle the youngster.

· Last week the Orange ran a lot of the offense from above the restraining line. Considering UVA’s horrendous interior defense versus Princeton last Saturday, I’d like to see more of the offense quarterbacked from behind cage looking for interior pass opportunities. It could be a big game for Brendan Bomberry.

· Given the number of stupid penalties given up by both of these squads, the man-up offense for SU could play a huge factor.

· Cleaning up the clearing and passing game will do wonders for this Syracuse team.

· Including this season UVA has been either number one or two in the nation in groundballs per game. Syracuse is far behind those numbers. The Orange are getting killed in terms of possessions per game, partially the result of the groundball game. Improve the GBs and you can get your defense a rest and get back on offense.

· The faceoff game is quickly becoming a problem. Eight of Army’s 10 goals against SU were scored on the ensuing possession following a faceoff win. Eight! Danny Varello and Seth Delisle need to find some traction here because nine of 26 is generally not going to win you the game. While UVA’s Justin Schwenk has a big .667 winning percentage he’s gone against some pretty poor talent at the X. Let’s see if his numbers are real or inflated.


It’s not often we see a freshman as the top goal scorer for a big time program but for the second straight year that is exactly the situation at Virginia. IL had Ian Laviano rated as the 15th best attackman in this year’s freshman class. He’s got 14 goals and three assists through four games which includes five goals against Princeton and Loyola. Partnered with Laviano is sophomore Michael Kraus who led UVA with 34 goals last year as a freshman. Mike D’Amario had a real breakout year in 2017 with 32 goals and 11 assists. While he has become a dodging threat, he is a great shooter on the wing.


Dox Aitken’s family is a virtual lacrosse family tree. Both of Dox’s parents played division I lacrosse along with six cousins and three uncles and aunts playing either division I or III. Aitken was another standout freshman last year with 29 goals and 11 assists. Currently he leads all UVA midfielders with nine goals. Junior Ryan Conrad is hound on the GBs. He’s a great two way midfielder and gets a lot of time on the man-down unit. Back in 2015 Conrad was named the number player in the 2015 class of freshman by Inside Lacrosse. Matt Emery has started each of the four games this year for the Cavaliers with just one goal and one assist. I would not be surprised to see Emery switched with freshman Matt Moore on the first line at some point this year. Inside Lacrosse rated Moore as the fourth best incoming freshman and he has not disappointed with six goals through four games.

One point of note is that 12 of 20 UVA penalties this year have been on the midfield. The Cavs have given opponents 18 extra man opportunities in total and allowed opponents to score on .333 percent of man-up situations. Against Princeton, UVA got a little chippy at times. The Orange has certainly not been stellar in terms of penalties and has the 48th best man-down defense. SU hit the box five times on Saturday against Army with several obvious calls going against them. Going the other way SU is 3-7 on the man-up.


Out of nowhere Justin Schwenk has been dominating with a .667 faceoff winning percentage. The sophomore spent his freshman year at Monmouth where finished 39th in the country with a .519 winning percentage. However, while Schwenk is currently sixth nationally, Virginia hasn’t played a team with a player holding an above .500 winning percentage and all four of those teams sit outside the top 40 in terms of team faceoff win percentage. The good news for Virginia is that Syracuse has been faceoff fodder for its last two opponents, going 14 of 48 in the last two games for a cool .291 win percentage.


If you’d like to see a game without defense, Saturday’s UVA-Princeton matchup wasn’t far off the mark. Virginia is giving up an average of 11.75 goals per game, 51st best in the country. Fourth year starter Scott Hooper is the leader of this long pole unit. The senior was fifth in the country in caused turnovers per game as a junior last year with 35. The Cavalier starting defense should also feature freshman Kyle Kology. Kology is a walk-on from Chatham, NJ. According to Tiffany, the freshman decommitted from a division III program and after looking at several division I schools, including one that did not even sponsor a lacrosse team, he chose UVA even as the head coach tried his best to dissuade Kology from coming to Charlottesville. Going from a guy not expected to make the team to a starter is impressive no matter what sport. He’s got five groundballs and six caused turnovers this year. The third starter will be junior Zach Ambrosino who is in his third year starting for UVA.


Last season Griffin Thompson and Will Railey split time in net after UVA suspended Matt Barrett for an off the field incident (Barrett eventually transferred to the Villanova Wildcats). This year the starting job went back to Thompson but after giving up six goals while making zero saves in the first 13 minutes against High Point two weeks ago he was pulled for freshman Alex Rode. Tiffany appears to have given the job to Rode after giving the number one goalie recruit in the country the start on Saturday against Princeton. The freshman looked shaky to start the game but seemed to find some rhythm. He had 10 saves while giving up 15 goals to the Tigers, but it’s hard to fault him given the short range barrage that came his way. There’s definitely some opportunity to get a young goalie off balance if the Orange can get a good start.

The Syracuse Orange will travel to Charlottesville, VA on Sunday at 3 PM. The game can be seen on the ACC Network Extra and heard on TK99/105. Of course you can also follow me @Orangelax for updates.