|It's turned out to be a heck of a season for the Orange|
This blog has -- unintentionally -- neglected any coverage of the 2014 Syracuse men's lacrosse season. We hope you've gotten all your lax knowledge from the founder of this site, Matt Glaude, who runs College Crosse. But we've provided our share of coverage here traditionally, so it's time to play some catch-up.
The regular season started on Monday, February 10, as Siena visited the Carrier Dome. An easy 19-7 win for the Orange. The following Sunday, then-#10 Albany came to town, and this was my first in-person look at the 2014 squad. I remembered seeing some of the same issues that plagued the team last year: namely, faceoffs. "It's going to be a long year," I thought. The biggest problems with not winning faceoffs: the opponent controlling time of possession; and rapid-fire scores digging yourself into a deep hole. This game against the Great Danes went into overtime, and Syracuse was able to earn a win.
The next Saturday, Syracuse hosted its first ever ACC lacrosse game, as Maryland came to town. The Orange only managed eight goals, and was doubled-up by the Terps 16-8. Another loss at Virginia a week later left the Orange at 2-2. However, wins against St. John's in the "Cobb County Lacrosse Classic" (this is a thing?) and an impressive win at Johns Hopkins (#2 at the time) send the 4-2 Orange into a championship rematch against Duke with some momentum. Then the Orange got hit by a train. In what I would probably describe as the worst game of the year, Syracuse lost to Duke 21-7. How the team would respond to that loss would determine the fate of the season.
You knew from that teaser that something either really good or really bad happened to this team after the loss at Duke. It was good: consecutive wins against Notre Dame, Binghamton, Cornell, North Carolina, and Hobart leading into the ACC tournament. In those wins, Syracuse seemed to play more aggressively on offense, had better success at the faceoff X, and the goal-tandem of Lamolinara and Wardwell seemed to really play well in their "one half only" roles. I was in attendance for the Cornell game, having made the awful trek up Route 13 from Elmira to Ithaca. I was impressed at how much better Syracuse looked, compared to when I saw them in person against Albany. Offense was just clicking that night. I missed the UNC game due to a wedding, but how was that for a finish?!?
That string of impressive victories set Syracuse in a great position heading into the ACC tournament. It was the perfect time to play Duke. It was a game for revenge for last year's National Championship, and a game to right the wrongs from that 21-7 loss -- in fact, the last time Syracuse had lost. For much of the game, Syracuse was playing from behind. Both teams were playing at a high level, but Duke seemed to have the edge. And then the 4th quarter happened. Syracuse crawled back. With 4:29 to play, Syracuse tied the game it had been losing since Duke went up with 44 seconds left in the first half. Duke then answered with a goal with 3:15 left to go back on top. The Blue Devils controlled the ensuing possession, but in a costly mistake played too aggressively instead of stalling, which enabled the Orange to get the ball back with plenty of time. Using most of that time, and seemingly playing for the tie, Syracuse was able to create enough space for Billy Ward to even the score with 15 seconds to go. Then in the best-timed faceoff win of the season, Syracuse gets the ball, has enough time to set up a play, and Dylan Donahue got the game winner with less than a second to go!
It was the best finish to a Syracuse lacrosse game I had seen since the NCAA Championship game against Cornell in Foxboro.
That win -- Syracuse's sixth in a row -- catapulted the Orange into the ACC title game against former Big East foe Notre Dame. That's where the magic ended, as the Irish simply played better and won the title, 15-14.
In an odd schedule, Syracuse closes the regular season Saturday against Colgate for Senior Day in the Carrier Dome. Odd, because there's a final regular season game after the conference tourney. At any rate, we'll be saying goodbye to the seniors, notably Chris Daddio, Billy Ward, Derek Maltz, Scott Loy, Matt Harris, and Dominic Lamolinara. Colgate struggles offensively, a stat that should favor the Orange, especially how they've played as of late.
The NCAA Selection Show is Sunday, May 4 at 9:00pm ET on ESPNU. Most bracketologists have Syracuse near or at the top of their seedings which, due to this year's expanded bracket, means Syracuse likely hosts the winner of a play-in game next weekend. Stay tuned here and at CollegeCrosse.com for coverage and analysis.