Syracuse endured a difficult loss to #1 Virginia this weekend, but can take away plenty of positives. SU’s trip back from Charlottesville must’ve seemed like an especially long one. Losing a close, hard-fought game against the best team in the country with a young Orange squad is nothing to scoff at. SU’s average age of its starters is just 20 years, 9 months. But certain things shined through on a tough night for SU. Here’s a look at the ups and downs against the Cavaliers:
- Positive: Brian Megill is an invaluable defender
The most daunting task heading into Klockner fell to Megill. Making up for the loss of SU great John Lade, Megill’s job on Sunday was lining up next to college lacrosse’s single-most deadly playmaker: Steele Stanwick. S2 had 70 total points last year as the league’s Tewaaraton champion. Stanwick is the most potent threat on the best team in the country, and has wasted defenders this year, contributing an average of 4 points per game.
But Megill absolutely owned the matchup. The junior was key in keeping UVA’s most lethal scorer within range of a check the entire afternoon, and Stanwick had just one goal. The scariest parts of the game came when the Cavaliers were able to pull Megill off of Stanwick, leaving shortstick midfielders Kevin Drew and Luke Cometti to guard him. Had Megill not played as well as he did, it might not have even been a game. Instead, Syracuse fans got a chance to see some of the best close defensive play they’ll see all year.
- Negative: SU’s performance on face-offs & ground balls
Lacrosse is a battle for possession, and that starts with winning face-offs. Chris Daddio and Ricky Buhr are specialists in that area for Syracuse. But SU was completely pedestrian at the face-off X. UVA dominated SU by winning 20 battles to the Orange’s 8. It’s exceedingly difficult to generate consistent offense when the Orange finds itself stuck in it’s own zone for the majority of the time, as was the case in Charlottesville.
Syracuse also couldn’t pick up ground balls consistently. No matter if it’s at midfield or deep in the defensive zone, a successful check that dislodges the ball is only capitalized on if the defender can retrieve possession and manage to clear. UVA doubled SU’s effort to pick up ground balls 42-21.
- Positive: Derek Maltz’s development as a scorer
Replacing SU’s former crease attackman Stephen Keogh is no easy task. In his time at SU, Keogh had 123 goals, highlighted by a 49 goal season during the ’09 championship run. To attempt to make up for some of that production is Maltz. He’s lived up to the task so far with a team-leading 7 goals in his first 3 games. Maltz has a cannon of a shot, and he’s never afraid to use it. He started the season most comfortable in the traditional crease attackman spot (right in front of the crease), but has developed impressive range and found ways to score from more difficult angles.
SU has a long lineage of elite scorers dating back to the Gaits and Powells. Maltz may never live up to that remarkable standard, but he’s quickly developing into a standout scorer. Maltz nabbed a hat trick in front of family in his home state of VA.
- Negative: Syracuse’s Extra Man Opportunities
SU was able to take advantage of just a third of its extra man opportunities at Klockner. The EMO performance continued a negative trend for Syracuse, as the Orange has scored on only 6-of-19 chances up a man. John Desko spoke about the poor performance after last week’s win against Army, in which SU went just 1-for-6 on EMOs.
“I’m not happy with that. We came out and ran plays that a couple of guys didn’t understand. So, we want to increase those percentages.”
- Negative: Syracuse’s Goalie-Switching
The theme so far has been Matt Lerman playing the first half and Dominic Lamolinara playing the second. Lerman played so well in the first half vs. UVA, Desko decided to start him in the 3rd quarter (something we haven’t seen even in exhibitions). Against UVA, his endurance was clearly tested by ruthless Virginia scorers. He allowed 6 quick goals in the third.
Though the goalies say it hasn’t had any effect on the team, it seemed to effect SU Sunday. If Syracuse expects to beat the best teams in the nation, it will need to eventually pin down a starter that can learn how to mesh with the defense and finish in critical late-game situations. SU had a 6-4 lead at halftime. It was washed away by UVA’s 10-goal second half that SU’s netminders couldn’t stop.
In the end, Syracuse loses an early season game to the best team in the country, but takes away some valuable knowledge about how they approach elite matchups. On the bright side, we’re nowhere near Memorial Day, and if Syracuse faces Virginia again late in the season, they’ll have some intel on what works and what doesn’t. It’s much easier to slay a beast that you have experience fighting.
Posted: Jake Moskowitz