Men's Lacrosse

Syracuse lacrosse film review: Top-side dodge defensive lapses

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

Scott Firman, captain of the Syracuse defense, has led a mediocre unit over the past couple of games.

Lately, the Achilles Heel for the Syracuse defense has been the alley dodge. North Carolina torched the Orange on such plays in the first half of the conference tournament, and SU let up a couple of goals that way last weekend to an unranked Colgate team four games under .500. Seven of UNC’s 16 goals came on alley dodges. Fixing the recent lapses will be key if No. 2 seed Syracuse (12-2, 4-0 Atlantic Coast) wants to advance past Yale (10-5, 5-1 Ivy), to the quarterfinals and then to Memorial Day weekend for the first time since 2013.

Increasingly, Syracuse has played zone midway through games to change up its look. Expect the Orange to do so against Yale, which brings in a leading attackman in junior Ben Reeves, who loves to score off alley dodges, and the seventh-ranked offense (13.13 goals per game) to the Carrier Dome on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Overall, the Syracuse defense ranks a mere 28th nationally (10.07 goals allowed per game). Limiting alley dodge goals against the Bulldogs and beyond will be key for any title run.

“Syracuse has to stop giving up the top-side dodges,” said Ric Beardsley, a four-time SU All-American defender and ESPN lacrosse analyst. “A guy takes the alley and creates a shooting angle. They have to stop doing that because (SU goalie Evan) Molloy is seeing a ton of shots with guys’ shoulders square to the goal.”

Here’s a breakdown of the SU defense’s major issue ahead of the NCAA tournament.

(All pictures courtesy of ESPN3)

Example 1

Score and time: Syracuse 1, North Carolina 0; 9:28 first quarter

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Scenario: Down one score early, North Carolina sets up in the six-on-six with a standard set. Syracuse matches up in a man-to-man defense, while UNC midfielders Michael Tagliaferri (red circle) and Justin Anderson (red rectangle) initiate the offense from the top.

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Result: The Tar Heels’ first goal in the ACC semifinals comes from Anderson, who burned SU senior defensive midfielder Joe Gillis (red oval) at the top of the offensive zone running to his strong side. Gillis stood upright and crossed his feet, so Anderson took advantage of an easy blow-by. Syracuse sophomore close defender Tyson Bomberry (red rectangle) jumped out to help and rose his stick in the shooting area, but Anderson had already created enough room to line up for the shot. Molloy had hardly a chance to save the rifle headed top shelf, the start of a 6-0 UNC run.

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Example 2

Score and time: Syracuse 1, North Carolina 1; 5:46 first quarter

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Scenario: Following nearly four minutes of scoreless action, North Carolina sophomore attack Timmy Kelly (blue rectangle) runs left to start what becomes UNC’s second goal.

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Result: Gillis forces Kelly left, where long-stick midfielder Andrew Helmer and sophomore close defender Marcus Cunningham met him for help. Kelly passes behind the cage to sophomore attack Andy Matthews, who makes a quick move left and passes up top to Tagliaferri. By this time, SU’s defense has converged to the crease area, leaving UNC with shooting lanes and dodging alleys.

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The graduate student Tagliaferri, again guarded by Gillis (blue oval), changes direction from the top and burns him before help arrives. He has an open shot on the run right down the middle of the field. Cunningham gets a stick in the shooting area, but Tagliaferri uses an over-the-top shot to five-hole Molloy from 10 yards out.

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Example 3

Score and time: Syracuse 1, North Carolina 5; 13:28 first quarter

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Scenario: Midway through a UNC possession, the Tar Heels substitute in Kelly for a breakaway top side in an opening in the SU defense.

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Result: Kelly (blue oval) darts in from the North Carolina sideline. Syracuse tries to counter by substituting Gillis, who’s late to the field. Kelly makes a beeline for the cage, getting past Gillis and absorbing hits from Gillis, Helmer (red rectangle) and Bomberry before slinging the Tar Heels’ sixth-straight goal. The middle of the SU defense was left open in part because of the substitution, but mostly because Helmer did not time his slide and allowed Kelly to break free for a look from straight-on.

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