Men’s Lacrosse Desperate for a Win This Week Against Virginia
By Tara Arya
CitrusTV’s Men’s Lacrosse Beat Reporter
Off a grueling loss to No. 4 North Carolina, on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, and now, without their leading scorer Chase Scanlan. Syracuse Men’s Lacrosse (5-4, 1-3 Atlantic Coast) has all the odds stacked against them heading into a crucial game against No. 5 Virginia.
In his press conference Wednesday, Head Coach John Desko summed up the loss to UNC with “it just seemed like when it rained it poured.” Besides Tucker Dordevic’s four goals and Drake Porter’s 16 saves, there was nothing positive to take away from Saturday’s game. The defense fell apart in the opening minutes and was never able to keep up with the Tar Heels’ stars, Justin Anderson and Chris Gray.
How much does SU need this win against Virginia? Very, very badly.
Coming off of a gruesome loss to UNC and a devastating blow with Chase Scanlan’s indefinite suspension, they’ll need tunnel vision to keep their season from derailing with a loss in Charlottesville. The coaching staff and players understand that. Coach Desko mentioned that their biggest task this week is “Focus. That’s been the word of the week, is to stay focused on practice and what our assignments are going to be heading into the Virginia game. Executing our offense and defense.”
They’ll have several key areas to focus on if they want to upset the Hoos at home.
First, face-offs. UVA has the second highest face-off percentage in the ACC, thanks to Petey LaSalla. The junior face-off specialist has the highest face-off percentage in the ACC, winning nearly 70% of his faceoffs. LaSalla went 10-for-10 in face-offs last week against Utah and is going to be another roadblock for the Orange to get on the offensive side.
This Virginia team is a stark contrast to the one that entered the Dome and lost by ten goals almost two months ago. Since then, they’ve gone on to win seven of their last nine games, defeating teams like Notre Dame and UNC in the process.
Several players have stepped up that the Orange will have to look out for. Starting with Dox Aitken who saw very little playing time in the first matchup between the two teams. Since then, the fifth-year senior has scored 12 goals for the Cavaliers and come back into form on the offense.
Then, you have Payton Cormier. He currently stands third in the ACC in goals scored along with other established offensive players like Matt Moore and Ian Laviano who can do a number on any team’s defense.
On the other side of the field, Virginia goalie Alex Rhode shares some similarities with Syracuse goalie Drake Porter. Both seniors with a lot of experience and also tied in average saves per game in the ACC. These two face a lot of shots and can save a game for their team just by standing in the goal.
Looking at this Orange team, they’re one loss away from losing sight of the NCAA Tournament. A win Saturday would solidify them at .500 for the season and give them a chance to make a postseason run. We saw them come off of a loss to Army early in the season and dominate the Hoos and they’ll likely look to emulate that again.
They certainly have a lot of distractions surrounding their team, but this is an experienced group who can come into this game and make a statement to the rest of the ACC that they are still one of the most lethal teams in the conference and even in the country.
Watch the action Saturday at noon from Charlottesville on ESPNU.
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