Syracuse had a strong start in the first two quarters against then-No. 11 Duke with its most opening-half goals against a ranked opponent since they faced then-No. 13 Army.
But like its matchup against the Black Knights, SU started to fall apart in the second half. Head coach Gary Gait said the team continued to get opportunities, but it didn’t finish them. The Blue Devils scored five times in the third period and only trailed by one score heading into the final frame.
Against Army, Syracuse didn’t score in the fourth quarter. But Syracuse went into the last period against Duke with revitalized energy, using a 4-1 run to regain momentum and seal the game. Tucker Dordevic was involved in every score, including one highlight-reel play that started a 3-0 run.
Here’s a look at Syracuse’s fourth quarter play against the Blue Devils:
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With Brennan O’Neill focused on dodging Brett Kennedy in front of him, he had no idea that Landon Clary was on his left or that Clary would throw his body into O’Neill, forcing the loose ball and sending the Orange upfield.
“Our defense made plays when we needed them to, and we also created a little bit of transition,” Gait said. “We were able to capitalize on it a couple times today.”
Clary finds Dordevic wide-open near the crease with Duke’s defense still out of position. His backwards, no-look, between-the-legs shot bounces between Duke goalie Mike Adler’s legs, kickstarting a three-goal run for Syracuse. Gait joked that it was a high-percentage shot for Dordevic, but worked since it was “reactionary.”
“The fact the pass was aloft, he reacted and made that play,” Gait said. “It wasn’t set up, it was reactionary.”
Yes, the high pass could’ve been better from Clary. But given the speed he was running at after body-checking one of the best attacks in college lacrosse, there was no expectation of a perfect dump-off. And with Dordevic on the receiving end, it wasn’t surprising that Dordevic secured the ball and put it in the back of the net.
Before Dordevic’s second score of the fourth quarter sparked the Orange’s game-clinching 3-0 run, he scored off a pass from Brendan Curry. Matteo Corsi set a pick for Curry, a play that SU has frequently used to get shooters open. But this time it frees up Dordevic as the Blue Devils made a defensive mistake.
While Curry runs off Corsi’s screen, Dordevic separates himself from Kenny Brower, Duke’s slide man on this possession. As Brower mimics Curry’s movement, Dordevic creates just enough space for an underhand shot.
Like after the Johns Hopkins game when Dordevic had three scores and said he was responsible for a lot of Syracuse’s “f-ups,” Dordevic said he was “pretty bad” shooting wise and took blame for the offensive mistakes earlier in the game.
But his ability to flip what he considers a bad outing into a good one comes from being able to score in different ways. Before he went between his legs, he took a low, underhand shot, one that an upright Adler wasn’t able to stop.
It starts from behind
Early in games, Syracuse likes to establish its attack from behind the cage, usually relying on Owen Seebold’s size and ability to see past the net and find cutting targets. But this time, Dordevic comes from the left wing to behind the cage while Mikey Berkman, Curry and Seebold try to get in scoring position.
Berkman makes the initial cut toward the crease, opening himself up directly left of goal as Dordevic motions to the right side of the cage. Berkman’s move causes his defender to slide toward him, opening up the front of the goal for a longer shot.
Dordevic recognizes this gap, sending a pinpoint pass to Curry that snuck right over the pipe. Curry’s defender, Tyler Carpenter, over-commits trying to stop the pass, allowing Curry to step to his right and fire a shot. Curry makes the perfect move, going opposite of Carpenter while shooting low on Adler.
From behind again
With this set up working a few minutes earlier by finding Curry from 10 yards out, the Orange went back to playing Dordevic behind the cage. The Blue Devils’ defense didn’t change their response to the play as well, as they tried to stop Syracuse’s cutters while pressuring Dordevic at the same time.
But Braden Burke makes a mistake trying to help Dordevic, who he thought was trying to go to the right side of the cage like he did before. Dordevic stops before he’s completely right of the net, looking for cutters instead. Dordevic sees Seebold, who hugged the crease and shuffled from the right side of it to the left. Seebold simply had to keep his stick upright for Dordevic to dump the ball, leading to another quick score to solidify a win for Syracuse.
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