The opponent may not have been [Hate] Johns Hopkins, Virginia, or Princeton, but Massachusetts' presence in the Dome this afternoon was expected to prompt quite the tussle. As Post-Standard staff writer Donna Ditota penned in today's edition of the local rag, Syracuse was anything but unmotivated for its latest challenge:
With emotions running so high, one could reasonably expect Syracuse to charge out of the gate and decimate its opponent.
No one can pinpoint exactly when Massachusetts became a date to circle on the Syracuse lacrosse calendar. But today, when the Minutemen visit the Carrier Dome for a 2 p.m. game with the Orange, they come branded with a Scarlet E for Enemy.
"My freshman year, it was just another game. It was no big deal at all," said former SU goalie Jay Pfeifer, who graduated last May. "It kind of escalated quickly, out of nowhere."
SU players, both past and present, list the game between the Orange and Johns Hopkins as each season's most anticipated event. The Orange trace the Hopkins' rivalry to the programs' differing offensive philosophies and their subsequent claims for national prominence.
UMass, though,is different. UMass is personal.
"I think with Hopkins, it's more of a respect factor," Vallone said. "Same thing with Princeton. It's a different philosophy. They play more controlled, more possession. With UMass, it's just that they're dirty. They're cheap. They will talk at any given time."
And that's exactly what happened. Sort of.
Paced by strong play from outgoing senior Brett Bucktooth (3G, 1A), Syracuse took care of its opponent in business-like fashion. Trailing 4-2 after the first period, the Orange quickly recovered, tallying five scores in the second and ultimately outpaced the Minutemen over the final two quarters of play.
|Victory Factors: v. Rutgers|
Despite Syracuse's abysmal performance in the face-off "x" (9-23), the Orange offense and defense turned in one of their most efficient outings of the season. The numbers above highlight this assessment terrifically.
Against a fast-paced, transition-based offense, Syracuse's defense performed admirably. Holding Massachussets to only 19% shooting and less than a shot per possession, Steve Panarelli & Co. may have won the game for the Orange. Given the fact that Syracuse's defense has struggled mightily against transition offenses this year, today's performance is heartening.
Not to be outdone, Syracuse's offense also turned in heroically efficient performance. Shooting a remarkable 41% on the day (on just 29 shots), Syracuse's young core of midfielders -- Abbott, Perritt, and Hardy -- were able to create great scoring chances all day long. It may have taken 11 games, but the Syracuse offense has officially found an identity to which it can flourish on a consistent basis.
Next up for Syracuse is a Saturday showdown against upstate compatriot Colgate. While the Orange has likely locked up a first-round home tournament game with its win today against Massachusetts, a win on the road at Colgate's Andy Kerr Stadium would eliminate a lot of questions about Syracuse's resume.