If No. 6 Syracuse Wants to Return to Memorial Day Weekend, the Defense Must Step Up

Friday, Mar 12, 2021 at 12:43 pm by Sports Editor

By Trey Redfield

CitrusTV Men’s Lacrosse Beat Reporter

Three games in, it seems No. 6 Syracuse Men’s Lacrosse (2-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) is still trying to figure itself out. It has one of the best midfield lines in the nation, one of the best attack lines in the nation, but the biggest question mark for this team is the defense. 

SU was gassed against Army, stellar against Virginia when it held UVA to zero goals in the fourth quarter, but made some fans second guess themselves after Vermont. 

Despite all that, head coach John Desko thinks the Orange defense played just fine in Saturday’s 17-13 win over the Catamounts. 

“I thought we played pretty well on defense, considering the number of opportunities that they had,” Desko said.

The large amount of opportunities started at the face-off X. UVM’s Tommy Burke dominated Jakob Phaup and Danny Varello, winning 71% of the faceoffs. For Phaup, it was his worst performance in his career at SU.

Plus, the Orange gave up 52 shots. But it was Drake Porter who gave Syracuse the edge. The fifth-year goalie racked up a career high 20 saves. The last time an SU goalie put up that many saves at net was Peter Coluccini back in 2007. Even though the defense gave up a lot of shots, Porter was very proud of their performance.

“They played a ton, they were tired, they were exhausted, and they fought all game,” Porter said. “For them to give me those looks all day, it meant a lot to me, and I am so unbelievably proud of those guys.”

Whether Desko or Porter thinks the defense played well, it is the biggest question mark, and it could be what takes away a trip to Hartford, where this year’s long awaited National Championship will take place. In each of its games this season, Syracuse has given a double-digit amount of goals.

This week, the Syracuse defense faces another tall task in Stony Brook. Dylan Pallonetti leads the Seawolves with 20 points, three more than the Orange’s leading point scorer, Stephen Rehfuss. His abilities don’t go unnoticed. The redshirt freshman earned America East Rookie of the Week honors for the third time this season. Stony Brook head coach Anthony Gilardi had plenty of praise for Pallonetti when I talked to him on Tuesday.

“He’s tough, he’s physical. He can shoot it, he can feed it,” Gilardi said. “He’s unselfish… his ability to dodge with his head up is probably his best attribute. We’re really excited that he’s a Seawolf.”

The Seawolves come from the America East Conference, sitting at 2-2 overall. Currently, Gilardi’s squad has lost two in a row to Hofstra. Once to Syracuse’s next opponent, on February 27 and UMBC in a triple overtime thriller last Saturday. 

Despite the low notes, Stony Brook has the chance to give the Syracuse defense even more fits from not just Pallonetti, but the entire team. The Seawolves lead the America East with 63 scored goals, 17 more than Vermont. 

If the Syracuse defense can’t get it done, they may have to rely on Drake Porter once again. In his career, the Aurora, Ontario-native puts up 13.8 saves per game against America East opponents.

The Syracuse defense will look for a better performance and give Porter less of a workload this Friday against Stony Brook. It will be the first ever matchup between the in-state opponents and third this season against America East opponents. Face-off in the Dome is set for 1.