John Odierna leads Syracuse defense against former team
Odierna leads SU defense against former team
SU’s new assistant coach led Manhattan to the MAAC Championship last season.
The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team dominated Manhattan College on Friday in the JMA Wireless Dome for their biggest win of the season so far.
After solid wins against Vermont and Colgate this week, the Orange put 16 past Connor Hapward in the Manhattan net. The Jaspers looked entirely outmatched in what was their first game of the season, as the Orange were in control on both sides of the field, particularly in the first half.
The most decisive aspect of the match was the Syracuse defense, whose head coordinator, John Odierna, led Manhattan to the MAAC Championship last season. Odierna headed an organized yet aggressive defense that stifled the Jaspers’ attack at every turn.
Fans were out in droves for both sides as Manhattan traveled with a couple hundred fans who were in good voice throughout the game.
Syracuse was also well-represented in their third home game this week, as the sections behind the bench were completely packed with blue and orange. Overall, 2,900 fans showed up for the contest.
In the first-ever matchup in the programs’ histories, Syracuse came out guns blazing.
Graduate faceoff specialist Mason Kohn took the first faceoff straight to net, scoring the opening goal in less than 15 seconds.
Immediately after, Kohn won another faceoff duel, with junior attacker Owen Hiltz being the eventual benefactor. Hiltz launched a missile into the top left corner before freshman midfielder Tyler McCarthy ended the early Orange blitz as the home team secured a 3-0 lead after one and a half minutes.
Two of these early goals were assisted by the Orange’s sophomore star Joey Spallina, who racked up seven assists on the game, the most by a player on the team since 2020.
After the game, Spallina credited his teammates, saying “I have great guys around me that help me get open, and then that’s how I get to help them. I think we’re just playing the right way right now.”
After this initial flurry from Syracuse, the game balanced out a bit, with both teams having some opportunities.
The Jaspers looked most dangerous when set up, featuring last season’s top scorer Kyle Gucwa. Gucwa was able to create opportunities for his side, driving around the net shooting low, challenging graduate goaltender Will Mark on multiple occasions.
After conceding one early on, Mark’s performance was one of the evening’s highlights as he was domineering in his area, shutting down driving attackers and saving six of the nine shots he faced.
The defensive duo of junior Kaden Kol and sophomore Billy Dwan also excelled for the Orange on the defensive end, stifling the Jaspers’ key players and giving them little room to breathe.
The Orange’s defending forced five shot clock violations and 17 total turnovers throughout the game while only giving up one penalty.
After the match, head coach Gary Gait praised Dwan for his performance against Gucwa.
“He’s been playing great all three games. He’s really developing some confidence and stepping up,” said Gait. “He’s having fun, being aggressive. He’s taking risks, and I think that’s only going to help him improve.”
The Orange were also aggressive in the ride, giving Manhattan players no time on the ball for their clears. Manhattan frequently had to complete difficult strings of passes to break the press.
“It’s a work in progress, but we just have got to keep working hard. It’s about effort,” Gait said about the press. “We develop a plan, and we want to go with that.”
Syracuse scored two more goals in the last six seconds of the first half, one from Hiltz, and another from Spallina with just one second left on the clock.
These two late goals were enough to put Syracuse firmly in the driving seat with a 12-2 lead going into the half.
The Orange were able to maintain command of the game through the second half of the defense’s high effort. They coasted in the second, rotating players and attempting some new looks on offense with less experienced names.
Following this win, Syracuse will play the fourth of their seven-game home stretch to start the season.
They face 2022 National Champions Maryland on Feb. 17. Game starts at 6 p.m.