‘Cuse Countdown Analysts Preview Syracuse’s Matchup with Navy
Syracuse and Navy last met in the 2004 NCAA Championship. While the stakes aren’t quite as high come Saturday, The Orange and Midshipmen still have plenty to play for as the regular season comes to a close. What does Syracuse have to do to get by Navy? The ‘Cuse Countdown analysts have a few suggestions.
Key to the Game: Don’t Overlook This Game
After defeating UNC last weekend, Syracuse clinched the top seed in the ACC tournament, which begins Friday. Going undefeated in conference play in the regular season for the second straight year should have the Orange psyched for the chance to win the conference title, but that doesn’t mean Navy can be overlooked by any means. Navy’s defense is tough to penetrate, ranking 12th in the nation allowing just over eight goals per game. This could frustrate a Syracuse squad that’s been held to less than 10 goals in three of its four non-conference losses. With sights set on winning an ACC title, one last test against a talented Midshipmen team should be the only thing on the minds of the Syracuse players.
Prediction: Syracuse 10-9
Both of these squads are pretty solid when it comes to defense, so expect this one to be a low scoring battle. Senior captain Jack Ray is one of the the go to guys for offense on Navy with Christian Daniel out, but if the Orange can keep them relatively quiet like it did to UNC’s Chris Cloutier last week, that should help Syracuse’s defense compete with that of Navy. Cardiac ‘Cuse will come out once again as the Orange will squeak out another one, possibly in OT for a second straight week.
Key to the Game: Push the Tempo
Back in 2004, when these two schools last matched up, SU won 14-13 in the National Championship game. The Orange won by getting up and down the field quickly with a squad led by Mikey Powell. This year’s Syracuse team may not have that lone stud. But, they have a variety of athletes who can push tempo and a finisher in transition in Bomberry. SU’s best offensive performance came this season against Duke in an up and down, quick paced game. If the Orange can replicate that, I expect an SU win.
Prediction: Syracuse 11-9
Look, against opponents not named Duke, Albany, or Hopkins, SU is allowing around nine goals per game. This season Navy is a averaging less than nine goals per game. Plus, the Midshipmen will be without Christian Daniel, who is tied for the team lead with 19 goals, so do not expect a scoring explosion from Navy. Syracuse will win if the offense shows up big time. But, the Orange will go through some dry spells against this Navy zone. In the end, surprise, surprise, Syracuse wins in a close one.
Key to the Game: Slow Navy’s Midfield
Navy’s midfield trio has been a nightmare for opposing defenses this season, considering all three top liners provide a different punch. At 6-foot-2, Casey Rees uses his size to bully his way through defenders. Greyson Torain is one of the quickest players in college lacrosse, and has the ability to dodge, feed scorers and finish. And Ryan Wade’s vision helps facilitate an offense that’s put up double digits five times this season. Most teams utilize a zone to combat these three players—something Syracuse has not done much of this season. Whatever strategy it goes with to slow Navy down, SU needs to draw up a stout defensive gameplan if it wants to keep the Midshipmen off the scoreboard.
Prediction: Syracuse 13-8
While Navy’s offense has been solid against the nation’s best this season (see last week’s win vs. Amy), Syracuse has the ability to exploit holes on its offensive side of the ball. The Midshipmen play mainly a zone defense, not much different than the zone SU picked apart last week against North Carolina. Expect the speed of the secondary offensive options such as David Lipka and Brendan Curry to pay dividends in an Orange victory.
Key to the Game: Value Every Offensive Possession
Navy comes into this matchup averaging 8.67 goals per game, which ranks in the bottom 15 in the country. Essentially, the Midshipmen are going to try to slow the pace of the game down and force Syracuse to grind things out on offense. With limited a limited amount of possessions, the Orange has to make every one count. ‘Cuse has to limit its own turnovers and look to execute on every single possession. This could be a knock down, drag out contest, so Syracuse has to be ready to deliver every time it possesses the ball.
Prediction: Syracuse 12-8
On paper, it seems as if Syracuse should have no problem with Navy. Yet, ‘Cuse’s non-conference performance has proven that nothing is a guarantee. Still, I like John Desko’s squad to take care of business in the Carrier Dome. The Midshipmen have simply not faced the high caliber opponents Syracuse has. I think the experience of taking on the country’s most elite programs will carry them to a victory before opening ACC Tournament play.
Key to the Game: Attack The Zone
Navy is one of the only teams in the country that plays a zone defense. With that in mind, Syracuse needs to make sure it’s playing aggressively on offense. In the first half of the Cornell game, SU failed to do that and played passively, and the offense saw little success as a result. It’s imperative that freshmen midfielders Brendan Curry and Tucker Dordevic continue to step up and attack from all over for ‘Cuse. If they don’t, we could see this Syracuse offense struggle against a unique defense they aren’t accustomed to playing.
Prediction: Syracuse 10-6
Navy comes in with the 12th ranked scoring defense in the country, which means this game is going to be sloppy and low-scoring. However, that’s going to play into SU’s hands. The Orange might lose the Varello/Varello battle at X Saturday, but at the end of the day Dom Madonna and the rest of the aggressive SU defense will be too much to handle for a Navy team that hasn’t played many top-tier teams this season.
Key to the Game: Rely on Outside Scoring
Navy’s zone defense is highly ranked, but teams have continued to abuse the Midshipmen on outside shots. SU has to take advantage of its chances and avoid turnovers. Navy’s offense isn’t good enough to win a shootout with the Orange. Other teams have already provided the template for Syracuse against the Midshipmen. While allowing top ranked Maryland to score is nothing to be ashamed about, but Jacksonville and Penn’s double digit performances show that the Midshipmen defense has clear vulnerabilities.
Prediction: Navy 9-7
Syracuse has been a dominant force in the ACC, but out of conference has been a different story. The Orange’s only ranked non-conference win came against Army, a team Navy beat just last week. This Midshipmen squad is sneaky good. Navy’s defense has been the catalyst all season long, and the ‘Cuse has struggled all year against pass-first leaders like Ryan Wade. The Midshipmen’s top scorer has 22 assists on the year, and Syracuse isn’t deep enough on defense to slow him and Navy down.
Key to the Game: Limiting Turnovers
Albeit a win against North Carolina last weekend, Syracuse’s play has been very sloppy in its past two contests. The Orange committed 29 combined turnovers against Cornell and UNC. SU must cherish possession of the ball especially against Navy, the nation’s 12th-best scoring defense. The Midshipmen have pretty much seized the opposition’s offense, allowing fewer than ten goals in more than half of their matchups in 2018. Not only that, but Navy’s faceoff specialist Joe Varello may further confiscate opportunities away from the Orange with his face-off dominance. Danny’s brother has won close to 60 percent of his tries this season. If the ‘Cuse can’t hold onto the ball in crucial situations, expect a tidal wide from the Midshipmen.
Prediction: Navy 10-9
Other than highlighting its strengths to the committee one final time before postseason play begins, this game is rather insignificant for both teams. SU already secured the first seed in the ACC Tournament, while Navy’s chances at the top spot in the Patriot League cannot be altered by Saturday’s result in Central New York. However, never doubt the motivation of one of our country’s armed forces. The Midshipmen sank in the previous five battles against the Orange, and haven’t secured a victory in the Dome in 40 years. And even though Navy’s best attacker Christian Daniel is likely to watch this one from the sidelines, his replacement Chris Hill tallied a hat trick last weekend. Don’t be too concerned with the outcome of this contest either way if you’re an SU supporter.