‘Cuse Countdown Analysts Preview Syracuse’s Matchup with UNC
After slipping in Ithaca on Tuesday against Cornell, the Syracuse men’s lacrosse team looks to defeat North Carolina and go undefeated against ACC opponents this season. Read what our ‘Cuse Countdown analysts think about the matchup:
Key to the Game: Limit UNC’s Man-Up Opportunities
After facing one of the nation’s premiere offenses in Cornell, the Orange defense will have to step up again, this time by making sure to play clean. UNC is in the top-10 in the country in man-up offense, converting on nearly 50 percent of its chances. The Tar Heels also have William Perry, the nation’s leader in man-up goals with nine. Nick Mellen and the rest of the Syracuse defense has to play disciplined in order to limit man-up opportunities.
Prediction: Syracuse 13-10
Both of these squads come into the Carrier Dome seeking redemption. UNC is trying to climb out of a six-game slump, and Syracuse wants to bounce back from the Cornell loss. The Tar Heels are prone to second-quarter collapses, being outscored in the second frame in each of their last three losses. If the Orange can take advantage of that and build a lead going into halftime, it should be a bounce back win for Syracuse.
Key to the Game: Remember the 3rd “H”
For years now the Syracuse mantra has been “Head, Heart and Hustle”. But, in SU’s loss to Cornell on the road this week the hustle was not present. The Big Red beat up the Orange in ground balls, picking up 13 more than Syracuse. If SU wants to get back on track against a Tar Heels squad that is losers of six straight, the team needs the energy to match a team that will come to the Dome desperate for a win.
Prediction: Syracuse 13-10
Despite North Carolina losing six-straight games, do not expect the Orange to just show up to the Dome and steamroll the Tar Heels. This UNC squad still has talent up and down the roster. Be that as it may, the inconsistency has been apparent in all facets of the game this year for the Tar Heels. Against Denver and Hofstra, the offense mustered just six goals, meanwhile against Virginia, the defense let up 15. Taking that into consideration, I expect SU to win relatively comfortably with a late spurt to put the game on ice.
Key to the Game: Limit Ball Movement
North Carolina’s offense centers around facilitation to set up open players. The Tar Heels have just one player that’s dangerous working in one-on-one situations—Chris Cloutier. Four other UNC players have double digit goals this season, but the majority of their goals come off one-time shots. If Syracuse can keep the Carolina offense from moving the ball, it can have the same defensive success it did versus Notre Dame and Hobart.
Prediction: Syracuse 13-8
The Orange ran into a juggernaut offense last Tuesday at Cornell, but face a much easier test at home against a struggling UNC team. The Tar Heels have the ability to break out offensively as they did versus Johns Hopkins, but expect a bounce back performance from the SU defense. Nick Mellen matches up well enough to limit Cloutier’s production, and no other Carolina offensive players have the ability to beat Syracuse.
Key to the Game: Match The Intensity Early
Don’t let North Carolina’s 6-6 record fool you. The Tar Heels are still very talented. Not to mention, their six-game losing streak also means UNC is desperate. With that in mind, North Carolina is going to come out of the gates hungry and ready to go. It’s important Syracuse matches that intensity from the opening whistle. Against Cornell, SU head coach John Desko admitted his team started to play better in the second half because it started hustling and fighting more. In order to avoid another early deficit, SU needs to play with that level of urgency right away because North Carolina’s going to bring it.
Prediction: Syracuse 10-9
This game might look like an easy win on paper, but I see it coming down to another ‘Cardiac Cuse’ late moment. UNC has the experience and talent on offense to control the possession and tempo of this game. Plus, the Tar Heels have a lot more to play for. However, when it’s all said and done, Syracuse will finish off the ACC regular season perfect thanks to a clutch goal right before time expires.
Key to the Game: Don’t Let Chris Cloutier Get Rolling
UNC’s top scorer Chris Cloutier has been electric his entire career, but in the Tar Heels’ losses this season, he has disappeared along with the rest of the Tar Heel offense. The senior scored just 1.66 goals his UNC losses this season, a far cry from the 3 goals per game he has scored in wins. While eliminating his presence entirely will be difficult, mitigating Cloutier’s ability to score debilitates the whole Tar Heel offense.
Prediction: Syracuse 12-8
Syracuse has struggled against teams with multiple threats. The Orange’s losses to teams like Johns Hopkins and Albany came when teams forced SU to show defensive prowess beyond just Nick Mellen. Luckily for the Orange, the Tar Heels lack of depth behind Chris Cloutier, makes this an easy pick for SU. Syracuse wins games it defensively controls, and against every ACC opponent this season, the Orange have done just that. That trend will continue against UNC.
Key to the Game: Remain Focused
Every aspect of this matchup screams “trap game” for the Orange. North Carolina enters the Carrier Dome without a win since March 3 and has relinquished double-digit goals in all but two games in 2018. Shifting over to SU’s side, the Orange has already clinched the first seed in the conference tournament. Yet, John Desko needs these final regular season games to assess some of his roster’s glaring weaknesses. SU often suffers from lengthy offensive woes, and a goaltender like Don Madonna requires continued reps in his first season serving as the primary man locking down the Orange cage. Don’t disregard UNC, a club once ranked within the top-20 in the nation.
Prediction: Syracuse 11-9
The ‘Cuse experienced a quick hiccup in its loss on Tuesday at Cornell. The offense’s ball movement was lacking, and goalie Dom Madonna battled point-blank shots because defenders simply didn’t slide properly. SU should defend its home turf and be extra-motivated to repair those blemishes before the postseason begins. Expect the Orange to record back-to-back years with perfect records in conference play.
Key to the Game: Stop Chris Cloutier
For the Tar Heels, this is a one-man wrecking crew. Offensively, Chris Cloutier is the only big-time offensive weapon with 28 goals on the season. Outside of Cloutier, the next closest scorers are all in the teens, and the big senior (6-feet, 230 lbs) has taken 24 more shots than the next closest middie or attack on UNC. If SU can contain the Tar Heels only offensive threat, the Orange should cruise to an easy victory.
Prediction: Syracuse 14-8
Syracuse is coming off a huge letdown against Cornell, but North Carolina is in a slump as well. After starting the season 6-0, the Heels have dropped every game since and sit at .500 on the year. UNC’s defense isn’t a threat as it lies at the bottom of the ACC in goals allowed per game. SU only needs a slight rebound from their matchup with the Big Red and they should cruise to a three-or-four-goal victory.