The Keys to an SU Men’s Lacrosse Win this Weekend at Maryland
By: Ashley Wenskoski
No. 16 Syracuse men’s lacrosse (3-0) is off to a hot start. An undefeated record, two wins in one weekend, a new national ranking, and huge improvements from last season on both sides of the ball. What could go wrong?
Well, they’re about to run straight into the reigning national champions. No. 4 Maryland (1-1) will welcome the Orange to SECU Stadium this Saturday in College Park.
The good news is that the Terrapins are coming off of their first regular-season loss since 2020. After a dominant 15-4 win over Richmond in their first game, the Terps were hugely upset at Loyola last weekend – and it wasn’t close. The Greyhounds took down their in-state rivals 12-7 in Baltimore. It’s safe to say that the team that comes out to face S.U. on Saturday will be a hungry one, eager to right the ship.
As for the Cuse, yes, their first three wins may have come against the likes of the America East conference (Vermont and Albany) as well as the lowly Holy Cross. However, there’s been a lot to like early on.
S.U. has displayed a multi-dimensional offense that they were lacking last season. Spreading the ball around and having a number of threats to score is a huge key to success, and the Orange flexed their new offensive versatility with a 20-goal outburst against UAlbany last weekend. Ten different scorers got involved in the action, led by Joey Spallina’s five goals and three apiece for Owen Hiltz and Jackson Birtwistle.
This is the first trip for the Orange to College Park since the 1997 NCAA Final Four. Maryland leads the all time series against S.U. 12-6. Last season, the Terps beat an entirely different Syracuse team 14-10 inside the Dome. How can the Orange flip the script and pull out a win against them this season? Below are the keys to the game for SU.
1.) Limit the Terrapins on defense
The Terps are dangerous scorers, and this is going to be the first big test for an S.U. defense that looks significantly improved this season under Dave Pietramala’s guidance. Last year, the Orange ranked 66th out of 72 teams in scoring defense. This season, SU has not allowed more than seven goals in a game thanks to Will Mark. The LIU transfer has held it down between the pipes for the Cuse, recording double-digit saves in two of his first three games in an Orange uniform. In the Vermont game, he saved 13 of 18 shots on goal, good for a very impressive 72% save percentage.
Mark, Nick Caccamo, and the rest of the Orange defense cannot let the Terps score 15 goals like they did in their first win against Richmond. Owen Murphy, Daniel Maltz, Daniel Kelly, and freshman Braden Erksa are scorers for Mark and Co. to watch closely.
2.) Win faceoffs
This one may seem rather obvious, but winning faceoffs plagued the Orange mightily last season. They’ve looked better in that area to start this season, with Johnny Richiusa winning 17 of 29 opportunities against UAlbany, but that could change against a team as talented as Maryland. The Terps have been faceoff-specialists ever since Luke Wierman took over the role. Wierman won 10 of 17 matchups in the Richmond win, picking up nine ground balls. And he wasn’t the point of weakness in the Loyola loss either, winning an impressive 18 of 22 at the face off. The Loyola game gave him his 400th career face-off win, a milestone only eight other Terrapins have ever reached. He’ll undoubtedly be a difficult opponent for the Orange, but they must at least be competitive at center field if they’re going to find a way to win.
3.) Share the love on offense
Remember that shiny, new, multi-dimensional offense I mentioned earlier? Moving the ball around is going to be critical to a win in Maryland. Good teams have a host of offensive weapons available in their arsenal, and the Orange look like they might have that. While Joey Spallina broke out with ten goals total against UAlbany and Holy Cross, the Spallina show alone won’t be good enough to beat the Terps. Neither will just the veterans coming to play, Griffin Cook and Owen Hiltz. It’s going to take a combination of the newcomers along with the established Orange scorers to beat the Terps. Strong offensive showings from guys like Alex Simmons, Jackson Birtwistle, Cole Kirst, and Finn Thomson are key.
Something that might help the Orange offensively? Terps goalie Logan McNaney is out for the rest of the season after tearing his ACL in the Loyola loss. McNaney had 8.31 goals-against average and a .531 save percentage in the first two games of the year. It is likely that Binghamton transfer Teddy Dolan will take over in the net. Dolan was the 2021 America East Defensive Player of the Year with the Bearcats. If the Orange can exploit the fact the Terps have a new starter between the pipes, they’ll be on their way to a win.
We’ll have live coverage from College Park this Saturday via @AshleyWenskTV and @CitrusTVSports on Twitter. Face-off from SECU Stadium is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.