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Amid Syracuse’s four-game losing streak heading into Saturday’s game were two one-goal losses to top 15-ranked teams. The Orange’s latest loss, which came on the road against then-No. 15 North Carolina, officially eliminated them from NCAA Tournament contention.
On Saturday, the losing streak continued as Syracuse (4-9, 1-4 Atlantic Coast) fell 21-15 to No. 6 Virginia (10-3, 5-1 ACC) in the second meeting of the regular season between the teams.
Here are some observations from the Orange’s fifth straight loss:
Conner, Moore lead UVA
When the two teams met in Charlottesville in late February, Cavalier Connor Shellenberger exploded for seven points. In the second game, Jeff Conner scored four goals and tallied three assists. Matt Moore matched that with a hat trick coupled with four assists.
Conner and Moore both gave UVA a 7-5 lead midway through the second quarter as Moore collected the ball after a wide shot from Payton Cormier. Moore quickly fed an open Conner for a point-blank shot in the crease. On the next possession, Moore found Xander Dickson for the first of his three goals as the two performed a series of dodges on the left wing to set him up for a sidearm shot, putting the Cavaliers up three goals.
But Moore is far from a secondary option. Moore entered the game tied for third on the team in total points (31) and was second in 2021, behind only Shellenberger. He also led the team in scoring 2020 and 2019.
Conner, on the other hand, surpassed his career-high in points by two. He capped off his hat trick by running around the right side of the net and sending a low, bouncing shot past Harrison Thompson.
Secondary scoring keeps SU afloat
Saturday’s game was arguably the deepest Syracuse has been all season. The secondary attacks have been scoring as the second line midfield has been its most productive all season.
“We don’t have the deepest team offensively. We’ve had a lot of injuries,” Tucker Dordevic said midweek. “We’re kind of doing what we can to get everything out of those guys going forward, (which) is going to take a lot of stress off of us.”
Jackson Birtwistle has scored five of his six points this season in the last two games, while Jacob Buttermore recorded six of his eight points during the last three games. And with Lucas Quinn back after missing five games with an injury, he rejoined a second unit that finally began to gel.
Virginia began the game scoring five unanswered goals after Dordevic’s opener. But Birtwistle’s first goal of the game ended that rout. Matt Magnan collected the ball in UVA’s zone and ran with it in transition before finding Birtwistle along the left wing for essentially an open-net goal, as UVA goaltender Matthew Nunes gave Birtwistle an open left side of the cage.
After Syracuse managed to pull within two goals of the Cavaliers early in the second quarter, the close-range, near-post shot Buttermore managed off a hop step turn pulled the Orange within one — the closest the Orange would get to tying the game.
Birtwistle managed a career-high five goals, with his last two goals coming off passes from Brendan Curry, including his fourth he scored on a behind-the-back shot heaved behind his right shoulder as he ran adjacent to the goal.
Virginia’s more effective at the X
Jakob Phaup’s early turnover to Shellenberger was the perfect representation of Syracuse’s defensive inferiority to Virginia. The Cavaliers entered the game among the best teams in the nation in terms of taking care of the ball, ranking fourth in turnover rate at 28.4%, according to Lacrosse Reference. The Orange, on the other hand, ranked eighth at 29.7%.
Syracuse, though, was spared by its faceoff wins in the first quarter as it went 6-for-9 at the X, as it only trailed by three goals after the first 15 minutes. But that quickly faded, and Phaup went into halftime having won 11-of-20.
Meanwhile, Virginia was more effective at the X, including Petey LaSalla scoring all by himself after winning a faceoff in the second quarter which put UVA up 11-6. Then LaSalla effectively put the game out of reach for Syracuse, as he found the bottom corner again on a feed from Moore.
Tewaaraton-level play from Dordevic
On Thursday, Dordevic was named one of the 25 semifinalists for the Tewaaraton Award, which is given to the best collegiate lacrosse player at the end of each season. Dordevic entered Saturday’s game with a team-high 42 goals and 54 points, and he has scored at least a hat trick in all but three games this season.
Dordevic was relatively quiet in the first half, but he scored when SU needed him. He scored the game’s opening goal, jumping and spinning to fire a high shot on Nunes as he ran away from the goal. Then he pulled the Orange within three goals at the end of the first quarter, scoring a low-bouncing shot in the final three seconds.
For the rest of the game, Dordevic was routinely double-teamed but he still managed his 10th hat trick of the season, becoming a playmaker on the top line to allow Birtwistle to balance the scoring load. He led Syracuse in shots on goal with six and became the enforcer of the offense’s picks rather than the beneficiary for a change.
The post Observations from SU’s loss to No. 6 Virginia: Secondary scoring, Dordevic hat trick appeared first on The Daily Orange.