For the first time all year, this young edition of SU lax channeled the dominant squads of years passed. Syracuse wiped away the taste of a bad regular season, and had commanding control from start to finish in dismissing Villanova 15-6 in the semi-finals of the Big East Tournament. It was payback for¬†an ugly defeat earlier in the season.
The¬†unreliable, lethargic effort¬†the Orange put on display in losses to Notre Dame¬†and Georgetown¬†was completely reversed. The directionless .500 group of a week ago was replaced by an energized pack of guys who have embraced¬†the win-or-go-home ultimatum. Senior captain midfielder Bobby Eilers said his teammates have set all their ducks in a row for the postseason.
‚ÄúWe talked about yesterday not being our last practice. We talked about how we have the heart, that the whole team has the heart, and how we have to win out from here. That it‚Äôs important to us.”
Eilers, a senior, clearly has more lacrosse in mind for his team as he submitted a blistering 4-goal bombshell on the Cats. Just two weeks earlier, it seemed his team was stuck in the doldrums and had given up on itself. Today, Eilers matter-of-factly said his guys have more than just a Big East Championship on their minds.
¬†‚ÄúIt‚Äôs do-or-die for us, and we just keep saying that we have to go win five more games and we‚Äôre all the way.‚Äù
Win five more games.¬†That‚Äôs not exactly taking things one at a time, working through the conference tournament to get a shot at the NCAAs. That‚Äôs an assertive outlook from a captain showing the way to a young squad toward a 12th¬†national title. If #30‚Äôs on-field show didn‚Äôt wow you, his remarkably confident attitude should.
SU did everything it needed to do going in. It got an excellent 11-for-20 faceoff contribution from Ricky Buhr, played a fluid midfield game led by Eilers, and had freshman goalie Bobby Wardwell standing on his head with shot-stopping swagger – only 6 goals allowed. John Desko said afterward that his team had one universal focus: grinding out a full game.
‚ÄúI was stressing trying to play 60 minutes of lacrosse. This year, we‚Äôve had a good first half, and have had to play catch-up in the second half. Today we got 60 minutes of good lacrosse in, and that was our goal.‚Äù
Desko‚Äôs team was relentless, going 3 straight quarters with at least 4 goals and having 9 different players ring the net. The most deadly part of the offensive onslaught came from the midfield, which is ironic because the middies have been mediocre all season. Against the Wildcats, Eilers lit the way for redshirt freshman dodger Hakeem Lecky to notch two goals of his own. The scoring was seamless and remained a constant threat from anywhere on the field.
The brand of ball this team played against Nova can stand toe-to-toe with any¬†elite competition in the NCAA tournament. With 4-seed St. John‚Äôs miraculously sending 1-seed Notre Dame home in the first game, SU’s road opened up even more for Saturday’s final. But Buhr says this newly invigorated group isn‚Äôt taking its eyes off the prize.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs definitely no weight off our shoulders yet. We‚Äôre still stuck in the woods. We need to get out in order to make the playoffs. We‚Äôve got St. John‚Äôs on Saturday, and hopefully after we play them, we‚Äôre going to be coming out on top. It‚Äôs a new season. We‚Äôve got to keep climbing that ladder until we reach the top.‚Äù¬†
It‚Äôll take a consistent performance at this level or higher against St. Johns to cement SU in the NCAAs, but the Orange has clicked the engine to ludicrous speed and taken down it‚Äôs first playoff obstacle in explosive fashion.
Posted: Jake Moskowitz