Syracuse’s smashing of Rutgers 19-6 yesterday was its first truly dominating win this season. The close victory against an elite team like Princeton was important, but there’s nothing quite as satisfying as putting an inferior opponent in its place. SU had 10 different players score at the Warrior Classic in Charlotte. The Orange relentlessly hammered home the message it should still be respected, even in an up-and-down season where it lost 7 All-Americans.
As sorry as Rutgers is, the Knights don’t lay down. They hung with #6 Notre Dame until the fourth quarter, and just barely fell to Princeton. Some wondered whether SU deserved a tournament bid, and SU delivered its vote on the matter by annihilating Rutgers. The Orange set a season-record for most goals in a game, and largest margin of victory.
Orange fans were looking for reason to believe in its chances in the NCAA tournament. With a freshman starting in net, an unacceptable loss to Villanova, and a flunked face-off unit, there have been plenty of reasons to jump ship.
But Saturday proved the talent and ability still exists on this team. Here are a few other things this win proved:
Brian Megill is a Monster at X
The biggest question heading into the game was John Desko’s next move at the face-off X. We’ve seen that Chris Daddio is inept at X, and we know Ricky Buhr is promising but unable to perform all of the time. SU watched winnable games slip out of reach due to lack of possession.
We’ve seen flashes of Megill and freshman Ralph D’Agostino at X, and both have done reasonably well given their opportunities. Nobody expected Desko to try Megill from the get-go and Megill surprisingly won 75% of his face-offs. Many of those possessions set up the 19-goal binge SU unleashed on Rutgers.
How will SU use its most valuable resource both on the field and off it?
Desko: “I would be foolish not to use him [as a face-off man] going forward.
Syracuse will probably keep Brian Megill at X, but it’s unreasonable to expect him to takes and win the better part of 20 face-offs while also shutting down the opponent’s best playmaker.
SU needs to find a reliever who can give Megill some rest on defense as he moves into the primary role at X. Will that guy be freshman Ralph D’Agostino? He’s had brilliant moments in limited playing time this year, but is still getting accustomed to handling the longpole at the Division I level. However, he’s well suited to step up into a temporary defensive role so Megill can win possession at X.
Bobby Wardwell is a shoe-in with the defense
The freshman has shown extraordinary poise and composure so far – including his first start against Princeton in which he let up just 9 goals.
A huge part of being successful in net is nailing down good communication with the close defenders. Against Rutgers, Wardwell was so loud that his voice got picked up nearly the entire game on the TV microphones.
There’s no doubt Wardwell has become the answer to Syracuse’s struggles in net, but the fact that he’s grabbing these challenges by the horns and maturing into an talkative, reliable netminder in the process shows his thick skin and leadership as a young athlete.
Possession awakens the beast
Syracuse is a talented group on offense, but its scoring finesse has been quieted lately by limited possessions due to a floundering face-off unit. With Megill helping SU solve that problem, the offense started and didn’t stop until Rutgers was a chewed up scarlet mess.
Not only is the offense incredibly potent, it’s also extremely deep. Derek Maltz came to life with a 4-goal day, Tommy Palasek lit up the net with 3, and Rutgers transfer Colin Donahue joined midfield captain Bobby Eilers with 2 goals. Scott Loy, Matt Walters, Pete Coleman, Joe Moore, Billy Ward, Luke Cometti, Steve Ianzito, and Tim Desko all tallied a goal as well.
The ’12 edition of Syracuse lacrosse has taken its lumps, but proved it can shoot and score with the best. It just needs to be sparked by winning the battle for the ball.
As SU attempts to lock up a tourney berth, this was important. It showed the Orange has the capacity to dominate, and with 3 games left, each game becomes do-or-die.
Posted: Jake Moskowitz