Men's Lacrosse

Syracuse men’s lacrosse opponent preview: What to know about Colgate

Daily Orange File Photo

Syracuse last visited then-No. 12 Colgate two years ago, a 9-7 SU win.

No. 3 Syracuse will play coming off a loss for the first time in two-and-a-half months on Saturday at noon in Hamilton, New York. The next day, Selection Sunday, also looms.

In its loss on April 28, then-top-ranked Syracuse lost to North Carolina in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, despite tying the game in the fourth quarter after trailing in the second quarter by nine goals. In what amounts to a tune-up game against a weaker, nonconference opponent, Syracuse hopes to realign for the NCAAs.

To avenge its last loss, Syracuse (11-2, 4-1 Atlantic Coast) must beat the Raiders (5-8, 3-5 Patriot) for the fifth consecutive time in a rivalry that dates back to 1921. The Orange has won seven of its eight nonconference games this season, on par with its 32-6 out-of-conference mark since joining the ACC in 2014. Winning on Saturday would also be head coach John Desko’s 499th win with the Syracuse lacrosse program, including his days as a player and assistant coach.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the game, which will air on CBS Sports Network.

All-time series: Syracuse leads, 46-11-1

Last time they played: The Orange obliterated the Raiders last season, 18-3, after winning the ACC tournament and 10 different players scored for the Orange. On a Saturday in the Carrier Dome, short-stick defensive midfielder Joe Gillis broke the game’s seal just four minutes in and Dylan Donahue added four goals. Colgate goalie Brandon Burke allowed 15 goals on 24 shots on net last season and Colgate pulled him after 43 minutes. After Syracuse starting goalie Evan Molloy made four saves on five shots in 38 minutes, SU cycled through former starter Warren Hill and third-stringer Tyler Avallone. 

The Colgate report: The Raiders return two of three goal-scorers from last season’s beatdown — midfielders Jack Stebbins and Matt Donvoan — as well as Burke. But the Raiders main weapons are two attacks, junior Anthony Abbadessa and freshman Sam Cleveland. The two have combined for one-third (67) of the team’s 202 points. But head coach Mike Murphy doesn’t want to call anyone on his team “The Guy.”

“Sam’s got a lot of points,” Murphy said. “I’m not sure we have a go-to guy. Brown, has been explosive in the midfield. Sam has been more of a product of being healthy longer. Chase Wittich had a knee injury. Sam’s been most consistent guy down there in terms of his health. …

“We don’t have one single guy that’s going to make or break our game plan.”

At the faceoff X, Collin Orr had his game exploited by Ben Williams to the tune of one faceoff win in six tries.

On defense, expect to see a lot of Ryan Caley, Tyler Schmarak and Jackson Patterson. But it’s been an oft-shuffled rotation there this season.

“We’ve had to use a lot of different guys,” Murphy said. “Our best defenseman had his appendix out … we’ve been peacemaking some things there. … We need to be a lot more consistent, and rely less on saves. We need to do a better job of allowing teams to shoot shots we’re comfortable with them shooting. And we’ll need great goaltending.”

How Colgate pulls the upset: Mike Murphy summed it up best when asked what his team had to do to beat the Orange.

“Faceoffs and goaltending,” Murphy said. “If you’re good up the middle, you’ll control some of your offensive positions and limit what the other team can do offensively. You need all of your guys to play well. You need defensemen to play well. Allow them to see shots that are comfortable. The faceoff man should limit runs. The faceoff game is a team event. Make sure wing guys … win your fair share. When Ben (Williams) has not been his best, it’s make it, take it. We’re excited for Saturday.”


Daily Orange File Photo

One way that has worked all season, for powerhouse North Carolina and small-school Hobart alike, has been winning at the faceoff X. Once Williams is thrown off his groove, it’s very difficult to get it back. Colgate’s performance at the faceoff X must be flawless.

“Williams has been a little beat up this year,” Murphy said. “You’ve got to take advantage of that.”

If that doesn’t happen, the Orange should waltz out of Hamilton with a comfortable win.

Numbers to know:

47 — Syracuse has won 47 consecutive games when holding opponents to 11 or fewer goals. In 13 games this season, the Raiders made that plateau only five times and has, overall, the 46th-ranked offense in the country.

4.62 — The Raiders defense causes only 4.62 turnovers per game, good for 66th of 69 NCAA Division I lacrosse teams. That statistic only looks worse when compared to Syracuse’s sparkling ranking as the fifth-best team at not turning the ball over (10.92 per game).

6.5 — Average loss margin of Colgate against its only other two ranked opponents this season. The Raiders lost to then-No. 17 Boston University, 18-7, on March 13, and two weeks later to then-No. 8 Army. The Cadets, for what it’s worth, dealt the Orange its only regular-season loss, on Feb. 25.


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