The cloud of uncertainty that hovered over this Syracuse postseason has dissipated. SU pounded St. Johns into submission 12-4 to take the Big East Championship and the automatic qualifier to the Big Dance on Saturday. Just like the dominant 15-6 semifinal win over Villanova, everything seemed to go right for the Orange. Here are the top 3 ways the SU dominated the Johnnies for the big victory.
- Ferocious Hustle
Plain and simple, the Orange was the faster and hungrier team. SU showed far more desire than St. John‚Äôs, finding and picking up loose balls 30 times as a team. Tommy Palasek (3G, 3A) tied his career best day with 6 points on the offensive end thanks to plenty of chances with the ball. He explained where the newfound intensity came from after the game.
‚ÄúIt comes down to our conditioning. We got guys on our team that could run for days. There aren‚Äôt many people in the country that can match our conditioning. Once you have that down, you start to execute in the right places, and the athletic ability takes over.‚Äù
SU may have had this compete level inside all along, but just waited for far too long to unleash it.¬†It‚Äôs a whole new season now, and the guys have upped the hustle and put on their game faces to punch a ticket to the NCAAs.
- Lockdown Goalkeeping
Bobby Wardwell is no longer¬†a makeshift answer¬†to¬†a goalie conundrum in the Salt City. He‚Äôs now playing premier lacrosse in net, and Saturday was no exception. With only 4 goals allowed against the Red Storm, Wardwell had all the composure of a top-level netminder.¬†Defensive leader Brian Megill¬†said Wardwell‚Äôs shutout first half performance is rare to see from any goalie.
‚ÄúYou‚Äôve got to give credit to Bobby Wardwell. He made so many great saves in the first half, holding them to zero. That‚Äôs almost unheard of in college lacrosse, especially Division I. He did a great job.‚Äù
Not only did Wardwell close off scoring chances for St. John‚Äôs, he also led a near 100% clearing unit, sending 16-of-17 balls safely out of the defensive zone. Clearly, Wardwell has adjusted to the speed of the college game and settled into his role as the starting goaltender.
- Midfield On Fire
It‚Äôs impossible to put into words the transformation Bobby Eilers has gone through in the last two games. His confidence has skyrocketed, leading him to unload the blazing fast 20-yard shot he‚Äôs had in his arsenal all year long. We knew SU needed someone to step it up at midfield, the co-captain accepted full responsibility.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve become more assertive. We‚Äôre willing to take that extra step in and attack the goal. And, if the shot isn‚Äôt there, we‚Äôre willing to be more patient and rotate the ball around.‚Äù
Eilers has lead by example. He‚Äôs become more assertive in ripping that sick off-stick cannon of his, and the younger guys on his line are following suit. One of those teammates is redshirt freshman Hakeem Lecky. Hakeem registered his third goal of the the Big East tournament. Until the playoffs, Lecky had just 5 goals all year. Big things are happening at midfield now that the unit‚Äôs senior captain has stepped into his role.
Syracuse’s season has changed on a dime, storming from a .500 team to a scary opponent for anyone in the tourney. SU gets its first crack at crashing the party this weekend against Duke on the road. The Orange avoided the fate of a¬†selection committee bitter about old losses, and assured itself at least one more game this season. Now, after two dominant wins in the Big East tourney, 2012 may be just beginning.
Posted: Jake Moskowitz