|The 2015 version of Syracuse Lacrosse looks pretty good|
Two big rule changes are very obvious to anyone watching a college lacrosse game this season. First is the face-off. In addition to a prohibition against using one's body to initiate contact with the opponent's stick, the face-off specialists will be required to immediately flip the ball up if possession is obtained with the back of the stick. This, of course, will require the player to create space between himself and his opponent in order to execute that move. It also emphasizes the utility of the wing players coming in to assist the face-off players. The other big rule change isn't exactly a change, but it's an improvement in the stall/shot clock rule. Beginning this season with Division I schools having the capabilities (and required beginning next year) a visible 30-second shot clock must be displayed on each end of the field. Instead of the officials utilizing an on-field 20-second system and a hand count for the final ten seconds, players and fans alike will be able to see the shot clock on the field. This was an easy fix for places such as the Carrier Dome, where the shot clocks already are placed for football. You can read about these rule changes here.
Face-offs were a big achilles heel for Syracuse last year. I think the Orange may have found the answer for this year: Ben Williams, transferring in from Holy Cross, won 17-20 draws against Siena, and then 9-22 against Cornell. That slip in productivity is a little concerning, and while nobody figured him to have two dominant games in a row, it was a respectable effort that obviously didn't have bad consequences for the Orange. The other big issue for Syracuse last season was the goalie situation. Bobby Wardwell and Dominic Lamolinara split time, and Coach John Desko seemed undecided on the issue for much of the season. This year, with Lamo graduated, Wardwell is the clear goalie. Having played nearly 37 minutes in a Siena game that was never close, Bobby played all but about three minutes against Cornell. He shined in that Cornell game, with ten saves while only allowing six goals. His numbers weren't quite as good against Siena, but Siena only took 23 shots the entire game.
A little bit more about that Siena game. As I mentioned before, Ben Williams was phenomenal on the face-offs. He also chipped in a goal himself and scooped up eleven ground balls. He's basically my new favorite player. Also scoring goals for the Orange were Kevin Rice (2), Nicky Galasso (3), Hakeem Lecky (1), Dylan Donahue (4), Randy Staats (1), Henry Schoonmaker (1), Tim Barber (1), Derek DeJoe (1), Ryan Simmons (2), Nick Weston (1), JT Forkin (2), and Joe Gillis (1). That's 13 players scoring 21 goals. Giddyup! Syracuse beats Siena 21-7.
You knew the February 15 game against Cornell wouldn't be a blowout like against Siena, as the Big Red always plays the Orange hard. Maybe it was the cold weather outside (barely reaching zero?), the 8-day layoff for Syracuse, or the season opener for Cornell, but neither team was in the mood for much scoring early in this one. At the end of the first quarter, Syracuse led 1-0. They picked it up in the second, scoring five goals and then six in the third. Cornell tried clawing back, but Syracuse was nearly always able to answer (usually quickly). In fact, Cornell only once had back-to-back goals -- 14:00 in the third on a man-up, and then at 13:41 from the ensuing face-off. Syracuse was just the better team out there, winning 14-6.
We're only two games in, but this has the makings of a great Syracuse lacrosse team. They're well experienced, have great chemistry, and get a lot of people involved in the scoring. The hopeful fixes at the face-off and goalie positions should shore up the issues that made the team vulnerable last year. The schedule makers also smiled upon the Orange, giving them eight home games. The ingredients are there; let's see what they make out of it.