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Three Thoughts: Big East Championship

The Orange become the first ever Big East tournament champions with a win over St. John's.

It was another easy day for the Orange men's lacrosse team as it cruised by the St. John's Red Storm in the inaugural Big East lacrosse tournament championship. Syracuse shut down St. John's in the first half, heading into the locker room up 7-0. The second half was a lot more relaxed. The Orange got a lot of subs into the game and ended up with a 12-4 victory. 

Here are my three thoughts from the game:

1. Consistency is key...

I used this same thought earlier this season, but in a negative sense. Earlier in the year, the Orange couldn't put a good 60-minutes of lacrosse together and that was its downfall. Fans would see moments of greatness during one half and a terrible performance the next. On Thursday against Villanova and again against St. John's, the Orange have been playing consistent and both games have been blowouts. That really shows the power this team has when its clicking. All the guys expected to play well are now playing well. One senior who is really shining is Tommy Palasek during his final year in Orange. He had six points today on three goals and three assists. He was named the MVP. 

2. Wardwell is bursting with confidence...

Freshman Bobby Wardwell has finally figured things out. It took him a while to gain that confidence in net. But that's expected for a guy who didn't start until half-way through the year. After a first-half shutout today, his confidence is as high as it has been all year heading into a crucial time, the NCAA Tournament. Wardwell finished the day with seven saves and he only gave up three goals. With about six-minutes left in the game, Dominica Lamolinara entered the game to replace Wardwell, just because coach Desko was trying to get a lot of different guys into the game. 

3. Syracuse is a headache for high seeds...

The top eight seeds in the NCAA Tournament get home-field advantage in the first round. Syracuse will earn a seed somewhere in the 9-to-16 range and will travel to a top seed's school. With the way the Orange have been playing lately, opposing schools wont be happy to welcome Syracuse to town. A couple likely options are UMass and North Carlolina, but that's subject to change. Regardless of where the Orange ends up, it'll most likely be the toughest first-round match-up a team will face.

Three Thoughts: Big East Tournament Semifinal

The Orange dominated Villanova on its home turf in the opening round of the Big East Tournament in Philadelphia

It was a close game for the first half of the Big East Tournament semifinal, but the back-and-forth game didn't last for long. The Orange led 6-4 at the half but a nine goal second half and a scoreless fourth quarter for the Wildcats gave Syracuse a 15-6 victory. 

Here are three thoughts from the game:

1. Bobby Eilers is dangerous against a short-stick... 

As a coach looking at a defensive scheme against the Orange, there are a couple options. You could either put a long-pole on JoJo Marasco or Bobby Eilers. Villanova chose to keep the long-pole on Marasco and Eilers punished them. He scored four goals against the Wildcats. So, it's simple, move the long-pole to Eilers and have a short-stick on Marasco. Wrong. If you open up Marasco then he will be the one to punish you. Syracuse's offensive weapons have started to cause a defensive nightmare for opponents and they will continue to haunt the dreams of coaches as long as Eilers and Marasco stay strong. 

2. Is Wardwell the difference?

Earlier this season at the Carrier Dome, the Orange fell to the Wildcats by one goal. One major change since the last match-up is between the pipes. The goalkeeper is no longer Dominic Lamolinara. Freshman Bobby Wardwell has stood tall in net and he made a huge difference against Villanova the second time around. His 12 saves were a huge reason the Orange went on such long runs. When a goalie lets in goals, the momentum goes away. Wardwell kept the momentum going. Of course, he isn't the only difference between the games. Syracuse picked up 41 ground balls to Villanova's 22 and held the advantage at the face-off X. But Wardwell standing strong in the goal certainly helped the Orange's cause. 

3. St. John's did the Orange a favor...

This thought isn't even about the Syracuse-Villanova game, but the one right before it. Unranked St. John's took down the No. 2 team in the country. Notre Dame had just beaten Syracuse last week and it would have been a tough championship match-up for the Orange. Now, Syracuse faces a team it beat earlier in the year. St. John's struggles in two areas. One major problem for the Red Storm all year has been face-offs. Sound familiar? Since St. John's wont be too competative at the X, it gives Syracuse more chances to pick up more possesions. The other area where the Johnnies struggle is clearing the ball. The team was exceptional today, but with a hard ride from Syracuse, expect a lot of Red Storm turnovers. 

Three Thoughts: Syracuse vs. Notre Dame

The Orange fall in the season-finale

The Orange came into South Bend with a chance to possibly clinch an NCAA Tournament berth. The team didn't play like it had anything to prove in the first half, going scoreless for the first two quarters of the game. After Notre Dame took a 4-0 lead into halftime, Syracuse lit a fire and came out strong in the second half. The bench was energized, the players were fighting for ground balls and the Orange looked like it could win the game. But the Fighting Irish fought off Syracuse and never let them cut the lead to less than one. Notre Dame solidifed its perfect Big East record with an 8-6 win.

Here are three thoughts from the game:

1. Bobby Wardwell is here to stay...

After a shakey first couple of starts, Wardwell has solidified his role as the starting Orange goalkeeper heading into tournament play. Wardwell finished the day with nine saves, six of those coming in the second half. He is the reason Syracuse had a chance to win the game. He made the big saves late in the game, which is huge coming from a freshman. Wardwell will be a huge asset heading into tournament play and might be the difference in a close game.

2. A good sign from JoJo Marasco... 

Marasco has quietly had a pretty good year. But the player on the Orange wearing No. 22 isn't supposed to be quiet. He's supposed to be a team leader, an energy guy who makes big plays when the team needs him to. Marasco showed signs that he's ready to step up and be that guy today. He finished with three points on two goals and an assist. The stat that really stands out is that he took seven shots, more than any other play on the team. Marasco has realized that he is the key to the Orange's success, when he takes charge, the team does better. He took charge in the second half and Syracuse mounted a huge comeback. Even though they fell just short, it's good to see Marasco living up to the number on his back. 

3. Big East tournament is a must-win... 

Since the Orange couldn't pull out the victory today and clinch the NCAA Tournament berth, the future of the team's post-season relies on the Big East tournament. Syracuse needs to win the Big East Tournament this weekend and grab the automatic bid. If they don't, the team will be sitting on the bubble. The Orange are slated to play the home team, Villanova, in the first round of the tournament. The Wildcats took down the Orange in a close game at the Carrier Dome earlier this season. If Syracuse advances past Villanova, the team will take on the winner of St. Johns and Notre Dame. Syracuse pulled out a one goal victory against St. Johns earlier this season but would face a huge challenge if it had to play the Fighting Irish again. Maybe with the stakes so high, the seniors will step up any carry the team into the NCAA Tournament. 

Three Thoughts: Syracuse vs. Hobart

The Orange take home the Kraus-Simmons trophy for the sixth-straight year.

The Hobart-Syracuse rivalry dates back to 1916. The Orange lost that first game almost 100 years ago, but have controlled the series ever since. Syracuse took home the Kraus-Simmons trophy for the 71st time tonight with a 13-12 victory that came down to the final seconds. The Orange dominated the first half, taking a 10-4 lead into halftime. But a series of mistakes and some great play from the Statesmen resulted in one goal game with just nine seconds to go. The Orange won the face-off due to a Hobart violation and held on for the win.

Here are three thoughts:

1. Brian Megill isn't the savior after all...

I had a feeling Brian Megill wouldn't have the game he had against Rutgers today at the X. Especially because he was facing one of the best face-off guys in the country, Hobart's Bobby Dattilo. Megill won just 3-of-8 face-offs while Dattilo won 18 of his 28 tries. Megill is going to do fairly well against most teams but he didn't have much of a chance against Dattilo, who has won 67% of his face-offs this year. Many expected Megill to be the savior to all the Syracuse face-off problems, but he simply isn't going to be. It's all about who steps up on any given day. Chris Daddio might have a great game one week and then Ricky Buhr might have a great game the next. The Orange still don't have that go-to guy. That's not to say Megill isn't a great close defender, because he is. He picked up nine ground balls tonight and is still huge for the Orange around the crease. Megill also scored his first career goal tonight. 

2. Derek Maltz and Tommy Palasek are the keys of the offense...

Derek Maltz scored six goals tonight and seems to have broken out of the mid-season slump he was having. Maltz and Tommy Palasek seem to be firing on all cylinders right now, which is why offensive production hasn't really been a problem lately. Palasek finished the day with a goal and 3 assists. It seems like JoJo Marasco hasn't been producing and Maltz and Palasek have stepped up in his place, but that isn't really the case. Marasco has been more productive than it seems. With an assist on a Matlz goal tonight, Marasco extended is point-streak to 20-straight games. People just expect more out of him because of the number 22 on his back. 

3. The extra man opportunities are coming together for the Orange...

The Orange struggled early on this season with the extra-man opportunities. Coach John Desko and staff have worked hard to fix the bugs and it seems like the kinks have been worked out. Against Rutgers, Syracuse scored on three extra-man opportunities, which was a season-high. The team did the same tonight, scoring on 3-of-5 extra-man chances. A lot of things that weren't working out well early on in the season are starting to come together. Is this Orange team poised to make an NCAA tournament run? The Notre Dame game on April 28th should give Orange fans a better idea of what to expect come post-season play. 


Three Thoughts: Syracuse vs. Rutgers

The Orange trounces the Scarlet Knights at the Warrior Classic in Charlotte, N.C.

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-8, 1-4 Big East) jumped out to an early 2-1 lead against the Syracuse Orange (6-5, 3-1) on Saturday at the Warrior Classic in Charlotte, N.C., but it didn't hold that lead for long. The Orange went on to score 12 straight goals, taking a 13-3 lead into halftime. The second half featured more domination until the last second ticked off the clock. The final score was 19-6. 

Here are three thoughts of the game:

1. Don't get too excited.

Any win is a big for an Orange team struggling to stay above .500. But beating Rutgers isn't something to call home about. The Scarlet Knights have no quality wins this season and no one really expected a big game from a team with just one Big East win. But there are two positives associated with this game. This was a huge confidence booster. Coach John Desko said it himself after the game, it's a big deal headed into an away game at Hobart on Tuesday. The other positive associated with today's game is Desko gained the opportunity to try out a lot of different things. Junior midfielder Matt Pratt got the chance to shine on the extra man opportunities. Sophomore attack Billy Ward showed how great of a passer he is. This kind of stuff doesn't happen during close games. I think Desko now has a better idea of how he will play these guys during the last three games of the regular season. 

2. Can Brian Megill play two positions?

Megill played really well at the faceoff X, winning 8-of-12 draws. It was just the lift the Orange needed after struggling with faceoffs all year. When the Orange does not get possessions, the team doesn't play well. Today, Megill earned SU the possessions and Desko said after the game that he would continue to get chances at the X. But can Megill be as effective at close defense, where he has established himself as an All-American, when he is taking so many faceoffs? What happens when Megill has to guard a high-caliber attack, such as Virginia's Steele Stanwick? I'm not sure he can do it all. But which is more important? I'd rather get those possessions. I'd give up a goal if it means the Orange was going to get two after winning a couple faceoffs. 

3. The Orange has one real challenge left.

Hobart always gives Syracuse a game. But it shouldn't be too challenging of a game this year. Following that game is Georgetown — a team Syracuse should also defeat. Syracuse's final game before the Big East tournament is at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are currently in first place in the Big East and are No. 6 in the country. Saturday's game, followed by Hobart and Georgetown, give the Orange enough time to work out the kinks for Notre Dame and the postseason. If it utilizes the tune-ups to improve on the little things, Syracuse can make itself a threat to make a run in the NCAA tournament. 

Three Thoughts: Syracuse vs. Cornell

Big Red deals the Orange their fifth loss of the season

Syracuse (5-5) couldn't handle Cornell (9-1) on a cold Tuesday night in Ithaca. The teams were tied 3-3 at the half after a hard-fought battle by both teams, but Cornell took over in the third quarter, scoring 5 goals and eventually blowing past the Orange 12-6. 

Here are three thoughts from the game:

1. Syracuse's success relies on possession...

When Syracuse has the ball, the team usually gets a good shot off or puts together a nice offensive possession. But the Orange struggle to get those possessions for a number of different reasons. The main reason being the lack of ability to grab face-offs. Today, the Orange grabbed just one face-off in the first half and took 8-for-22 overall. This created more possessions for Cornell and more opportunities to score. The Big Red outshot Syracuse 46-24 because of the control Cornell had over the ball.

Another factor that plays into possession is ground balls. Cornell picked up 39 ground balls in the game while the Orange picked up 23. Often times, a Syracuse defender would force the ball loose, but others couldn't capitalize and swipe up the ball. There were even times when the face-off player would move the ball to one of his teammates, and wouldn't be able to pick up the ground ball. When Syracuse takes possession of the ball, they can be dangerous, but they simply haven't been able to do that.

2. Consistency is key...

If Syracuse plays a consistent 60 minutes of lacrosse, I don't think there are many teams in the country who can beat the Orange. The problem with this is that the Orange have only put together a solid 60 once, maybe twice, this season. Today, the Orange were playing well against Cornell in the first half. It was an extremely entertaining game for the first two quarters. The Orange forced six first-half turnovers and gave up just four. The team had also failed to clear just one time. Then the second-half came along and everything changed. The Orange couldn't stop coughing up the ball and Cornell capitalized, taking a commanding lead. Syracuse turned the ball over 14 times in the second half and failed to clear the ball three times - after having a pretty successful season doing so. The team gave the game away, which has been a theme all season. The Orange have hints of greatness, but they can't seem to put together 60 minutes of quality lacrosse. 

3. There is no real solution in net...

It's time for Orange fans to face the reality that John Galloway isn't going to step back between the pipes for the Orange anytime soon. Bobby Wardwell got his second NCAA start tonight and didn't impress many people. On a couple occassions, he made some terrible mistakes that resulted in easy Cornell goals, and he didn't get saves when the team needed stops. Wardwell made 12 saves, which isn't terrible. None of the three goalies who have played this season have really had a terrible performance. They are all just mediocre, which is what Orange fans are going to have to deal with in the net this season. There was a point in the game when Matt Lerman started warming up behind the Syracuse bench, which could suggest that he is next in line to get another crack at the starting position. Regardless of who is in the net, the Orange are going to have to rely heavily on its defense if it wants to find success throughout the rest of the season. 

Three Thoughts: Syracuse vs. Duke

The Orange lose consecutive games for the first time since 2007.

It was a rainy Sunday at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey for the Konic Minolta Big City Classic as the No. 14 Syracuse Orange (4-4) fell to the No. 8 Duke Blue Devils (9-3). The Orange came out strong in the first quarter, jumping out to a 3-1 lead. Duke took a one-goal lead into halftime and then a three-goal lead in the third quarter. The Orange stormed back to tie the game, but a series of bad turnovers resulted in a Duke victory. This was the first time that Duke has beaten Syracuse since 1978.

1. The Orange can't play 60 full minutes of lacrosse.

We saw it last week against Villanova, and it happened today in the game with Duke. Against the Wildcats, the Orange played really well in the first half and then collapsed in the second. Today, Syracuse had a great first quarter and an inspired streak in the third, when the Orange went on a 3-0 run. But aside from that, the Orange turned the ball over at key times, the defense was slow and Syracuse just couldn't find the back of the net. In order for the Orange to pick it up, the team leaders need to step up and play more consistently. JoJo Marasco needs to be the guy to light a spark when the team needs it, and he hasn't been. He had a chance to score a huge goal today, and he fired it right into the pocket of the Duke goalkeeper, who wasn't having a great day. Luckily, Tommy Palasek has been stepping up big for the Orange. He had 4 goals and an assist today, but it wasn't enough to keep his team alive.

2. Bobby Eilers has been a disappointment.

Going into the season, Bobby Eilers was a player I was keeping an eye on. I thought he was going to have a big year and be a boost for the offense. He hasn't been that at all, and things didn't change on Sunday. With just minutes left, Dominic Lamolinara made a huge save to give the Orange a chance. Eilers ended up with the ball in the offensive zone and made a terrible pass into the hands of a Duke defender. That was one of the last chances Syracuse had to come back. Eilers should be a guy who the team is comfortable with having the ball near the end of the game. At this point in the year, he earns my "Biggest Disappointment" award.

3. Coaching can only go so far.

Coach John Desko and the crew has worked hard to get this team back to meet the Syracuse lacrosse standard of excellence. Coach Kevin Donahue has done a nice job changing up the face-offs, so much so that the team actually won the face-off battle today. That's saying a lot considering last season, Syracuse won just 7-of-27 face-offs against Duke, and the Blue Devils returned its key guys at the X. Syracuse has put a few different guys at the wings and it has finally paid off.

But the coaching strategy can only help in certain aspects of the game. All year, Desko has been telling his players to change planes on their shots. Against St. Johns, shot selection was dreadful, and the same goes for Villanova last week. Today, it got a little better. There were some good bounce shots taken and they resulted in goals. But late in the game, there were chances for big equalizing goals that didn't change levels at all. Palasek even mentioned after the game that he should have gone low against the goalie in the final minutes, a goal that would have tied the game. Until things change, this team will continue to shoot the ball right into the goalie's pocket.

Three Thoughts: Syracuse vs. Villanova

Syracuse loses its first ever Big East game to Villanova 11-10.

Syracuse (4-3, 2-1) fell to Villanova (5-3, 1-0) at the Carrier Dome on Sunday night 11-10. It was a slugfest between the two teams. The game was very physical and went back and forth. The Orange led for the majority of the first half but came out of the locker room sluggish and Villanova capitalized.

The game was still tied after the third quarter but the Wildcats took a two-goal lead in the fourth that the Orange couldn't surmount. In the final minutes, Syracuse had a few chances to score but Villanova goalie Dan Gutierrez stood tall at the net and let nothing by. Dominic Lamolinara made a save with five seconds left and bombed the ball downfield in one last effort to tie the game, but it was too late. 

Here are three thoughts from the game:

1. The team showed signs of life.

The first half was one of the best halfs of lacrosse this team has played in a while. Syracuse was out shooting Villanova 24 to 19, picking up more ground balls, clearing the ball well and even winning faceoffs. The Orange haven't been winning faceoffs all year, even against a team like Providence. But in the first half of today's game, Syracuse won 9-of-14 at the X. The offense looked really good. They were changing planes on their shots and getting to the net a lot. Had this play continued, the Orange easily would have come away with a win. But when Syracuse trotted out onto the field for the second half, something changed. The team won just 2-for-11 faceoffs, 0-for-4 in the fourth quarter. Coach John Desko said after the game that he was dissapointed in the teams offensive performance in the second half. He said they've worked on a lot of things all week in practice and he didn't see what they worked on out on the field today.

2. Dominic Lamolinara is the guy.

It has finally been decided, for real this time. Lamolinara is the goalie and he is in the cage to stay. He came out strong today. He had five solid saves in the first half and three in the second half. Unlike last week, there weren't any goals this week that made me question Lamolinara's ability. Everything he let by would have been very tough to save. But what impressed me the most about Lamolinara was his ability to clear. Today, he was making deep passes like John Galloway made last year. He also has a good eye for the open man. On multiple occasions, Lamolinara would find someone up field that would set up a wide open transition chance. Kevin Drew scored both of his goals today on long clear passes from Lamolinara and having that weapon is huge for this team. 

3. The Orange need to take advantage of the extra man opportunities.

The Orange were 0-for-5 today while being a man up. On Wednesday, Syracuse had two different two-man advantages and couldn't capitalize on either. Coach Desko went to work and designed a play for the extra man opportunities. He said in the press conference that the team didn't run the play during the first two man-ups today, which resulted in no good shots. During the final three man-ups, the team did run the play and it resulted in some good shots at the goal but they were saved. The game would have been a different story had the team been more successful on the extra man advantages and Desko admitted that after the game.

The Orange Shut Out Colgate in Dome Opener

Jenna Caira strikes out 7 in the first home game of the season.

Home plate was near the 50-yard line, field goal posts were used as foul poles, and bases were mounted into the turf of Ernie Davis Legends Field for the first ever softball game in the Carrier Dome. 

"It was so much fun, great energy in here," head coach Leigh Ross said. "The girls were extra excited to have so many fans here."

The Orange put on a good show for the home fans in the 6-0 victory against the Colgate Raiders. Syracuse was led by a strong pitching performance from senior Jenna Caira, who finished the day after five innings. Caira struck out seven batters and gave up just one hit.

After earning All-Big East accolades last season, Caira returned for her final year and looks to repeat the performance that brought her team into the NCAA tournament last season. Caira earned her 100th strike out of the season tonight, but the excitement of playing in the Carrier Dome overshadowed that.

"It' s a lot of fun, being able to share this with the community," she said. "That's who's out here coming to watch and support us."

Carey-Leigh Thomas now holds the honor of being the first person ever to hit a home run inside the Carrier Dome. She hit a three-run shot during her first at bat of the game. Thomas was the only person to hit a home run tonight but the Orange will get another chance tomorrow night at 6 p.m. against Canisius.

"I was ecstatic," Thomas said about her home run. "I'm glad that my family was here to see it..."

Lacey Kohl and Morgan Nandin also picked up RBIs tonight. Kohl hit a sacrifice fly to deep left field. It looked like it was going to find the stands but then fell just short into left fielder Haley Fleming's glove. Nandin picked up her RBI on a single to right field.

Coach Ross said after the game that nothing was too different for her and her girls. They just went out and played the game. Right fielder Shirley Daniels had a slighty different experience after she had to slide on a steal of second base. 

"My neck, like, bounced up," Daniels said. "It was kinda weird, I wasn't ready for that."

Daniels was worried for a moment that she had hurt herself, but she said after the game that she was fine. Aside from that incident, both the coaches and the players were happy with the event and look forward to doing it again.

Three thoughts: Syracuse vs. Providence

The Orange's offensive onslaught buried Providence.

After losing to Johns Hopkins, the Orange (4-2) came out strong Thursday against Providence (1-4) in a 10-6 victory. The Friars weren't really expected to put up much of a fight. Their only win this season came against Wagner. So this was just the game the Orange needed to get back on track heading into a matchup with No. 14 Villanova on Sunday. 

Syracuse and Providence traded goals to start the game, but the Orange then went on a 5-0 run that lasted until the third quarter. In the second half, with a few subs in the game, the Orange didn't play as well and didn't produce the way they did in the first half, but they were still able to come away with the win. 

Here are my three thoughts from the game:

1. No one really knows what's going on in net.

After the Johns Hopkins game, it appeared that Matt Lerman had sealed the starting spot. He started and played the entire game for the first time this year. But sophomore Dominic Lamolinara started on Thursday and played the entire game. The word is that Lamolinara will be the starter from here on out, but nothing was confirmed by coach John Desko or anyone on the staff. In the postgame press conference, Desko said Lerman was sick earlier in the week. Did this contribute to Lamolinara getting the start? Lamolinara came out strong Thursday with a pretty good first half. He gave up a couple questionable goals in the second but, overall, saw the ball well. He looks confident between the pipes, clears the ball well and seems to have established himself as a team leader. I think Lamolinara has established himself as the front runner, but to be honest, I don't really know at this point. We just have to wait and find out.

2. Why can't the Orange win face offs?

Face offs have been a problem all season. The Orange were sub-.500 again tonight against a Providence team that shouldn't have given them that much trouble. When asked about it in the postgame press conference, coach Desko said it's still a work in progress and that he is working to find a solution. He experimented a little bit more again tonight. In the past weeks, he has put Brian Megill in to take a few face offs. Today, Desko put in sophomore midfielder Drew Jenkins and freshman long pole Ralph D'Agostino to take a few. That strategy didn't really work as neither one of them shined. Something that did help the Orange out was moving Matt Harris to the wing. Desko was happy with Harris' play there.

3. Orange Offense starting to get on track.

Syracuse lost a lot of weapons offensively. Guys like Stephen Keogh and Jovan Miller graduated and left the Orange looking for some sharp shooters. Currently, other members are starting to step up offensively and this will really help the team in the coming games. Tommy Palasek has gotten more aggressive the last couple of games and has ignited the offense. Palasek had two goals and an assist tonight. Another weapon that has really stepped up for the Orange has been Derek Maltz. He only scored once tonight but it seems like he can do it all. His greatest strength is his rocket right-handed shot, but in the past few games he has proven he can get to the net. The next person that needs to get going for the Orange is Hakeem Lecky. He has so much talent. He's very quick and gets to the net well. But he hasn't been too involved in the last couple games. If Syracuse can get him involved, they'll have yet another dangerous weapon.