“Is Syracuse Back?” Realistic Expectations for Orange’s Upcoming Gauntlet

Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024 at 1:15 pm by Sports Editor

By Sam Corcoran | @The_SamCorcoran

Multiple sports have been considered “a game of inches.” That resonates true for lacrosse and No. 6 Syracuse, which came a Michael Leo-hand away from upsetting No. 4 Maryland on Saturday after he fell in the goal mouth when netting the potential game-winner. Instead, the Terrapins scored 15 seconds later to edge the Orange 13-12 in overtime.

Whether the goal should’ve counted or not, the fact SU took UMD to overtime is impressive in itself. Maryland, one of college lacrosse’s top blue bloods, won a national championship two seasons ago and was coined by Syracuse Head Coach Gary Gait as “a perennial top-four team”. Considering the recent struggles within the Orange program over the past two seasons, keeping the game close with the Terrapins says a lot about the ‘Cuse.

With a well-rounded cast and a top-five ranking last week for the first time under Gait, Syracuse proved it could be one of the nation’s top teams last week. But can the Orange capitalize on that potential with a rough upcoming slate?

Onslaught Outlook

The road for Syracuse doesn’t get easier from here. 8 of SU’s 11 remaining opponents received votes in this week’s Inside Lacrosse poll, and High Point (SU’s March 2 opponent) received votes as well.

The Orange are no stranger to testing the nation’s top dogs. Syracuse’s schedule consisted of 9 ranked games in 2023 and 11 in 2022. While the Cuse has experience against elite competition, wins have been tough to come by. In 2023, SU snatched a pair of wins in those 11 tries. The year prior, it fell to all but one of nine different ranked teams.

Luckily for the Orange, time is on their side to learn from their mistakes in those games and over this past weekend.

“We’re right there with [Maryland and other top teams],” Gait said. “The good thing is we got almost a whole season ahead of us [to learn and mature].”

What Does SU Need To Improve?

To be honest, not much.

Through four games, the Orange currently rank T-6 in scoring offense nationwide and 9th in scoring defense. Syracuse sits top of the nation with faceoff wins, 77, led by Mason Kohn’s 59, the second most for an individual nationwide. Those statistics show the ‘Cuse has a strong gameplan down on every aspect of the field, and Gait said after the Maryland game the Orange excelled everywhere.

Gait also said that mistakes were made on both sides of the ball. One common “challenge” for Syracuse has been its game plan when man-up or man-down. When down a player, the Orange rank 43rd in the nation on defense at a 63.2% kill rate. On extra-man opportunities, SU’s 40% success rate sits 20th in the nation.

While those numbers aren’t terrible, considering what the ‘Cuse already has going for it, it could be a point of emphasis as the season progresses.

What’s Next?

Syracuse gets right back to work tomorrow against Utah, something that Gait sees as an opportunity to quickly recover from a heartbreaking loss.

“The great thing is we don’t have to wait long for the next opponent [Utah],” Gait said. “We’re going to put this behind us and move forward right now.”

The Utes (0-2) enter tomorrow off a 16-8 loss to the team ranked one spot higher than SU, No. 5 Denver. Two weeks prior, Utah fell to Ohio State 11-8. It’s safe to say that goals have been hard to find early on for the Utes. Only seven players have found nylon so far this season. In net, GK Colin Lenskold enters tomorrow with a 37.2 save percentage – bottom five nationwide.

Faceoff between Syracuse and Utah is slated for noon tomorrow. Follow along @The_SamCorcoran and @CitrusTVSports for live updates throughout the game.