Syracuse men’s lacrosse: Beat writers evaluate Orange with analysis and superlatives

first_img Published on April 10, 2016 at 10:55 pm Syracuse was ranked No. 5 coming into the season, but had plenty of questions to answer regarding the replacement of two attacks, an entire starting midfield and a goalie. Then tack on the addition of a freshman starting on defense. Nine games into the season the Orange (6-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) has lost three of its last four games and dropped down to No. 9 in the rankings. Here’s how SU looks midway through the season.SUPERLATIVESMost Valuable PlayerConnor Grossman: Ben WilliamsThe elite faceoff specialist wins this award purely on his indispensability. Williams is the single biggest reason SU is able to play remotely close the level it did last year, as he’s once again lifted the team to the highest faceoff percentage in the conference. Syracuse continues to dominate the possession game, but doesn’t convert on as many opportunities with the less seasoned crop of goal scorers. Without Williams, a slightly deflated offense wouldn’t be able to keep pace with the amount of scoring chances other teams would have. Jon Mettus: Ben Williams    Williams is Syracuse’s most valuable player, and that value cannot be overstated. No one touches the ball more than he does, and he’s the difference between whether SU gets possession or not. Williams’ dominance can allow the Orange to run away with games or stay close in contests that it’s getting outmatched in every other aspect of the field. When Syracuse plays one-goal games like it already has four times this year, winning the final faceoffs are the difference between a win and a loss. That falls on Williams’s shoulders.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textPaul Schwedelson.: Dylan DonahueDonahue is among the best players in the country and the quarterback of Syracuse’s offense. He’s taken on more ball-carrying this season and has thrived in the role. His 37 points lead the Orange and without him, SU would be in a much worse spot.Biggest surprise C.G.: Nick MellenThe speedy freshman defender got on opposing coach’s radars early in the season, when he was integral in shutting out Albany’s elite attack Connor Fields for the first time in his young career. He boomed out of the gates with seven caused turnovers in his first three games, but has since cooled off. Regardless, he remains a young anchor on SU’s back line.Hannah Wagner | Staff PhotographerJ.M.: Sergio SalcidoThrough Salcido’s first few years with Syracuse, head coach John Desko questioned whether or not he’d ever see the field. Salcido had just five points through 27 games in his first two seasons with the Orange. But this year, in a midfield that had a lot to replace, Salcido has risen to second on the team with 27 points in his first year as a starter. His speed and dodging have made him a key cog in the SU offense.P.S.: Derek DeJoeDeJoe started the season on the second-line midfield and became a starter after Tim Barber shifted to attack. Entering this season, DeJoe had scored just 13 goals in three seasons. So far this year, he’s scored 12 in nine games while not even being a part of the man-up unit anymore. His ability to dodge to get to the cage has stood out most in a player previously known exclusively for his hard shot.Biggest disappointmentC.M.: Penalty overloadIn all four of Syracuse’s one-goal contests this year, the team has committed an average of 4.5 penalties per game. Seven flags against Virginia allowed the Cavaliers to score four man-up goals and blast the worst man-down defense in the conference. The Blue Jays capitalized on two late man-up situations to push its game to overtime. Brandon Mullins was flagged in the last two minutes against Duke, and a Warren Hill chest save on a Myles Jones rocket is the only thing that prevented SU’s meltdown from consummating in regulation. A more inexperienced Syracuse team needs to more finely walk the line between aggressive and intelligent play.J.M.: Ben WilliamsWilliams is revered by opposing players and coaches as one of the top faceoff men in the country. And his performance this year is a disappointment only considering last year’s second-best-in-the-nation mark of 67.4 faceoff winning percentage. He’s down to 60.8 this season, which is 16th in the country. He lost faceoffs late in the fourth quarter and overtime of the one-goal losses to Johns Hopkins and Duke.P.S.: Warren HillHill entered the season as the clear-cut starting goalie but nine games into the season, his status going forward is as murky as ever. The goalie that led the Iroquois Nation to its first-ever bronze medal in an outdoor international competition hasn’t shown up in the past few weeks. Syracuse’s defensive downfall — 16 goals allowed to Duke and 17 to Notre Dame — can’t entirely be pinned on Hill’s shoulders, but he certainly hasn’t played up to the level he could.Biggest X factorC.G.: Whoever emerges at goalkeeperLast year the Orange had the luxury of keeping Bobby Wardwell in cage for nearly every minute of the season. This year was largely the same for Hill, Wardwell’s backup last year, until head coach John Desko unseated Hill with Evan Molloy against Notre Dame. Whoever emerges in this self-created competition stands to be the biggest weight in the pendulum of Syracuse’s season, as an occasionally unstable defense looks for its backbone.J.M.: Whoever is in goalHill or Molloy? That’s the question and a big one at that. Hill, an internationally renowned goalie, started the first eight games of the season, but after three losses in a row was pulled in favor of Molloy. Both have had highs and lows during their performances, but stability and adequate play in goal will be critical for the second half of the season. P.S.: Ben WilliamsThe faceoff X has been a testy spot over the years for John Desko and his coaching staff. And now that Syracuse has one it can usually rely on, the Orange tends to have the possession advantage. But in overtime losses to Johns Hopkins and Duke, Williams withered and Syracuse never even touched the ball. The X is where tight games can be won and lost, and those key spots fall on Williams’ shoulders.Ben Williams | Staff PhotographerPOSITION GROUP GRADESAttackC.G.: A-The offense was going to be a little shorthanded with Donahue transitioning to play creator instead of finisher. He’s unlikely to lead the team in goals for a third straight year, but boasts the second-most assists in the conference as a tribute to his refined playing style. He’s pulled the strings on an offense that’s showed its breadth with six double-digit goal scorers.J.M.: B+Syracuse’s current attack of Donahue, Tim Barber and Jordan Evans has accounted for almost half of the team’s points this season. Donahue leads the way with 37 points and has been the facilitator of the offense. Though Nick Piroli, who initially started, got hurt following the first game, midfielder Barber has excelled as a replacement at attack. This was supposed to be the breakout season for the former No. 1 recruit in Evans, but it has been relatively disappointing. Though he’s scored seven goals in the last two games, his 20 points are still just fifth best on the team.P.S.: A-After having to replace Kevin Rice and Randy Staats, the emergence of Jordan Evans and whoever the third attack would be was a serious question at the beginning of the season. But Evans has scored seven goals in the past two games, and Barber has shuffled in nicely after starting the year at midfield.MidfieldC.G.: APerhaps the biggest concern amid the turnover from last year was how an offense-first midfield line would be replaced. Transfer Nick Mariano has helped alleviate that concern with a team-leading 18 goals, and first-time starter Sergio Salcido has quietly blended his speed with a steady shot that’s netted him a career-high 16 goals.J.M.: A-SU had the tough task of replacing its entire starting midfield lineup coming into this season. The first line right now features three players in Derek DeJoe, Nick Mariano and Salcido who had little to no experience at midfield for the Orange. DeJoe was a man-up specialist for the first three years of his career, and Salcido played sparingly before. Mariano is playing midfield for the first time in his career after transferring from Massachusetts. All things considered, the trio is playing about as well as could have been expected.P.S.: B+I’m not sure anyone would have expected Nick Mariano to be Syracuse’s leading goal scorer this season, but the UMass transfer has given SU life time and again. Salcido stepping up as a scoring option has also been impressive as well as DeJoe shifting into the most prominent role he’s ever had.DefenseC.G.: B-The defense is primarily sunk for its inability to execute in man-down situations. Otherwise, fifth-year defender Mullins is leading the team in caused turnovers as the physical and vocal leader on the backline. He’s complemented by a smaller speedster in Mellen, and a tall, yet versatile defender in Jay McDermott that rounds out a multi-faceted counterattack.J.M.: B-Freshman defender Nick Mellen has been the standout on a defense that has struggled at times. Defender Brandon Mullins leads the team with seven penalties, and the man-down unit’s 55.2 percent success rate is a lowly 58th best in the nation. Mullins has been the vocal leader, but his penalties have cost a defense that’s contributed to the Orange’s switch in goal. In SU’s overtime loss to Duke, the defense failed to adjust to Deemer Class, who scored seven goals.P.S.: B-What was supposed to be the backbone of this Syracuse team hasn’t lived up to its preseason billing. The Orange’s most experienced unit has allowed 9.67 goals per game, which ranks 29th in the country behind Colgate, Wagner and Canisius. SU’s recent stretch against some of the top teams in the country has inflated its numbers but if the Orange can’t stop multi-faceted offenses, that spells trouble for May.GoaliesLogan Reidsma | Senior Staff PhotographerC.G.: CSaves can be a skewed statistic that doesn’t account for the lack of chances a goalkeeper might have on a team that dominates possession time, much like Syracuse. But the Orange boasts the worst save percentage in the ACC, and while close losses have arguably fallen more so on the defense’s shoulders, it doesn’t help when Hill and Molloy are easy targets to attack.J.M.: B-Syracuse’s goalies have been up and down this season. Hill started the first eight games of the season before Molloy took over the most recent game against Hobart on Wednesday. Hill was pulled during the Orange’s 10-goal loss to No. 2 Notre Dame in which the defense consistently left him out to dry. Hill has made key saves at times and let in key goals at others. He ranks 58th and 59th in the country in saves per game and save percentage, respectively.P.S.: BAfter Hill started the first eight games, Molloy stepped in against Hobart for his first career start and made seven saves on 13 shots. The situation going forward is still fluid and now Desko has a full game to evaluate Molloy. But after entering the season as the unquestioned starter, Hill hasn’t fulfilled expectations. There’s still a chance for him to regain the starting job and heat up before the postseason but as of now, the goalies are shaky.Faceoff C.G.: AWilliams isn’t winning as many times at the X as he did last year, but that stands true for a lot of this year’s team compared to last. He’s still shouldered a load larger than most other faceoff men in the country, and Syracuse should be thankful it can still rest on him to deliver several possessions it wouldn’t have otherwise. He has been challenged this year by the country’s better faceoff units, who now have a year’s worth of film to study on him.J.M.: BAgainst Johns Hopkins and Duke, the game came down to faceoffs and who could win them late in the game. Unfortunately for Syracuse, it could not and lost both of those matches in overtime. The team has relied far too heavily on the faceoff unit, and Williams to make up for other deficiencies on the field.P.S.: BIf Williams wins the faceoff at the start of each overtime against Johns Hopkins and Duke, this grade could be a lot different. But the plays in crucial spots are what determine games, seasons and legacies. Syracuse ranks ninth in the country in faceoff winning percentage with 61.7 percent, but in five games against ranked teams, SU is 78-for-141, or 55.3 percent, at the X. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *