Game Preview: What to Know Ahead of #6 Syracuse vs #4 Virginia

Thursday, Apr 18, 2024 at 8:22 pm by Sports Editor

By: Adam Gotkin | @adam_gotkin

As crazy as it sounds, we’ve reached the end of the regular season for Syracuse men’s lacrosse. The rest of the nation will play next weekend, but Gary Gait once again has scheduled an off week for his team before postseason play gets underway. SU ends its 15-game gauntlet schedule against yet another top 5 team, 4th ranked UVA. 

The Cavaliers present an interesting matchup for the Orange. Unlike Syracuse, Virginia’s offense is extremely top-heavy and unbalanced. Connor Shellenberger, Payton Cormier, and McCabe Millon combine for arguably the best attack line in the country. 

Shellenberger is the teams leader. The Charlottesville native is a 5th year who has been named a 1st-team all-American each of the past three seasons. Cormier is another 5th year who is a three-time honorable mention all-American. He leads the nation with 3.67 goals per game. Millon is the burst of youth for UVA. The Maryland native is the son of two of the best lacrosse players of all time and was the number-one recruit in the class of 2023. He has 45 points and an ability to take over games. 

Griffin Schutz, Ryan Colsey (son of SU legend Roy Colsey), and Jack Boyden (Tufts transfer) are all elite offensive midfielders. However, after the top six everything starts to fall apart for UVA. The ‘Hoos second-line midfield gives you nothing to worry about. Will Cory is the top-scoring player on that line and has just seven points. If Syracuse can contain Virginia’s stars then it puts itself in a good position to win. The issue is that’s a very hard thing to do. 

UVA’s last game was a 18-12 loss to Duke, by far the worst defeat of the season for the Cavaliers. The attackmen were held to just five goals and the Blue Devils were able to limit the ‘Hoos in transition. Virginia’s short-stick defensive middies have combined for 23 points this season. Duke held them to just one. 

 On the other side of the field, Virginia’s defense is massive. UVA’s three close defencemen are 6’5, 6’6, and 6’7. Cole Kastner, the tallest of the crew, is their top option and was named a 2nd team mid-season all-American by InsideLacrosse. For an attack line that already struggles to dodge, the ‘Cuse won’t find much success in 1-on-1 opportunities against the ‘Hoos. For the Orange to have success on offense, they’ll have to work through the midfielders. 

If Sam English, Jake Stevens, Michael Leo, and Luke Rhoa can dodge successfully and force Virginia’s defense to slide, then the size differential can work in Syracuse’’s favor. If Spallina and co. can slip through the defense and spin the ball as the Cavaliers are moving on defense the Orange will find lanes and find success. Virginia’s starting goalie Matthew Nunes really struggled against Duke, giving up seven goals with no saves before being pulled. 

A win for the Orange would most likely lock up a first-round home game in the NCAA tournament and move SU back into the top 5. At halftime, Paul Gait will get his number 19 lifted into the rafters. That should bring a big crowd into the Dome hoping for a big upset to end the regular season.