This is a game we will look back on at the ends of the 2022 Syracuse Lacrosse season with sheer disappointment. SU dominated this game outshooting JHU 54-29, winning the face-off battle 14-7, and forcing 21 turnovers. Nine out of ten times, the team with the upper-hand in each of those categories wins the game, but not yesterday.
Of those 54 shots, 21 went on goal and Blue Jays keeper Josh Kirson had the game of his life with 14 stops. So the Orange lose to another ranked foe and drop to 2-4, its worst start since 2006. Let’s break it down and see what went right and what went wrong.
Big return game for Syracuse defensive coordinator Dave Pietramala. Minding this, you know he was on his A-game yesterday against the team led for two decades. Here’s an adjustment we haven’t seen this year from the SU defense. Nick Caccamo (28) purposefully remains on top of the crease and allows Hopkins attacker Joey Epstein (32) to roam free behind cage.
This is smart because it forces Epstein to make an impact off the pass and it slows the game down. However, it can get dicey if Epstein makes a run on goal on either side of the crease. However, Caccamo and’ Cuse goaltender Harrison Thompson (1) do well to keep Epstein at bay behind goal-line extended.
The problem comes when Caccamo unnecessarily slides to assist Griffin Cook (2) who is doing a fine job defensively. Cook forces Hopkins middie Jacob Angelis (23) down the alley to a place where he has no angle for a good shot. Caccamo slides leaving his coverage responsibility wide-open in front and as a result and easy JHU score.
Now the first slide isn’t completely outrageous from Caccamo. You’d prefer the Yale transfer be over-aggressive then the other way around. If he fires though, there needs to be coverage from him on the back end. There was no help here and that’s why the goal was scored. Brett Kennedy (11) needed to slide downhill to pick up the open man on the crease. Instead, the experienced defender sat and watched as Epstein buried a quick sticker.
The Hopkins defense did a ton of double teaming. There were several instances where people were open on the perimeter as a result of the aggressive approach from JHU. Tucker Dordevic (23) does a spectacular job here dissecting the pressure and passing to the where the open player should be.
Now Hopkins was probably content to leave Mikey Berkman (3) open because he isn’t exactly a big shooting threat. However, he made the Blue Jays pay burying a 15-yard catch-and-shoot opportunity.
Much of the Syracuse offense is initiated either from “X” or on the wing. Cook (2) starts things here with a nice spin dodge to get to his strong hand and earn a little bit of space. The former attacker poses enough of a threat to draw the slide and dishes exactly to where the help came from.
This leaves Lucas Quinn (26) uncovered for a quick long-range attempt which finds the back of the net. Quinn has one of the best shots on this team so anytime you can get it to him off the dodge for a quick look, SU should do it.
This is just UNACCEPTABLE! Five seconds after Quinn scores to give Syracuse the lead, Hopkins ties it up. First off all, Jakob Phaup (37), SU’s FOGO, needs to stop picking up face-off violations. The Pennsylvania native has done great work at the “X” this season but has struggled with consistency recently. If he doesn’t go early or whatever the problem was, then this play doesn’t happen.
However, what is the Syracuse defense doing? There’s no communication, two players covering one, and a trailing defender damn near walking on the field..? Carter Rice (12) needs to hustle back and get in the play because Hopkins had a quick 6-on-5 and they took full advantage. This one’s on the players, not the coaches.
On the flip side, this is an excellent defensive possession from Syracuse. There’s great movement and good flow from both the close defenders and short-stick defenders. JHU ends up just throwing something at the net with the shot clock winding down and it finds the upper-left corner.
Dave Pietramala is more than fine to allow an opponent to try a 15-yard on the run shot every day of the week. Simply put, Harrison Thompson HAS to make this save. This shot had low velocity, didn’t change plans, and was stick-side high. If you play high-level division one lacrosse, this is a routine save which could even lead to a transition goal. I understand he may have been screened by his own defender in Caccamo but still, this needs to be stopped.
Transition defense has plagued Syracuse all season and it does so again here. SU plays it pretty well actually with Saam Olexo (48) ready to slide and forcing the pass. But what the hell is Brett Kennedy (11) doing? He’s standing one foot away from fellow defender Nick Caccamo (28).
This leaves Johnathan Peshko (51) unaccounted for and he scores. Olexo and Kennedy need to do a better job communicating whether to slide or hold and Kennedy needs to be positioned better because he covered nobody on this play.
Remember what we discussed earlier about the danger of being “hung up” defensively? Well here’s the kryptonite for this adjustment Syracuse deployed. Thompson is assisting Caccamo but leaves his net wide-open as a result. On the back end, Epstein finds a streaking cutter who was supposed to be covered by Dami Oladunmoye (35). The SSDM allows Peshko (51) to knock in a bang bang goal.
Obviously I’m not Dave Pietramala here but he needs to work on slides with his defense. Nobody has any idea who’s supposed to be the 1, 2, or hot call and it shows. Grant Murphy (90) goes to help as he should and it leaves Garrett Degnon (40) all alone in the slot for a turnaround goal.
In my eyes, this needs to be Kennedy sliding to pick Degnon up as the 2. In any case, SOMEONE HAS TO GO?! You can’t just leave a guy free ten yards from cage for an opportunity on goal. In a perfect world, Kennedy is the 2 slide and picks up 40, then Brandon Aviles (43) drops downhill as the 3 slide to pickup Kennedy’s guy on the crease.
Still a lot of themes that continue to just carry over week after week after week. This Syracuse defense still needs a lot of work when it comes to communication and slides. On the other end, SU needs more from its offense. Tucker Dordevic is the guy but who is the #2? Brendan Curry’s lone goal came in a 2-man up situation. The 3x All-American took 13 shots yesterday and only four of those found their way on goal.
Again, this is a game the Orange probably should have won but instead it’s another “L” and things are looking precarious as we haven’t even hit the midway point of the season. Syracuse is back in action on Saturday at Stony Brook.