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Last season, Syracuse had the defending NCAA champions’ number. The Orange beat Virginia twice, and won both games comfortably. The Cavaliers would go on to win their second straight national championship on Memorial Day weekend, but something about Syracuse had stumped them.
Saturday, No. 9 Syracuse hoped to replicate that success, but it couldn’t. The Orange started slowly and trailed 8-1 at the end of the first quarter. SU used a four-goal run to pull back into it, but it allowed a seven-goal run at the end of the third quarter. Ultimately, SU dropped below .500 on the season and lost 20-11.
Here are some observations from Syracuse’s (1-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) ACC-opener against No. 2 Virginia (4-0, 1-0 ACC).
Jakob Phaup no longer has Petey LaSalla’s number
In 2021, Jakob Phaup won 77% of his faceoffs in two games against eventual NCAA champions, Virginia. Despite an up-and-down season, Phaup dominated Virginia faceoff man Petey LaSalla in both those matchups, helping fuel two comfortable victories for the Orange. When asked recently what went right for him against Virginia, Phaup said he wasn’t really sure. He said it didn’t feel any different than his other games that season.
“When LaSalla showed up those two days, that wasn’t him,” Phaup said two weeks ago. “I’m sure I’ll get the real Petey LaSalla this go-around.”
Phaup was right. Saturday afternoon against Virginia, LaSalla got the better of him. The Virginia specialist won 11 of his first 15 faceoffs. Phaup reached three faceoff violations early in the second quarter, which sent him to the penalty box and put UVA a man-up for 30 seconds.
Many of Phaup’s first-half faceoffs ended with LaSalla, or a wing, scooping up a loose ground ball. Even when Phaup didn’t get the initial clamp, he or his wings were there competing for the ground ball. He had a stretch with more success early in the second half, but UVA finished with 21-of-32 faceoff wins. LaSalla tagged on a goal of his own after charging straight ahead to score with less than 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
SU’s struggles clearing the ball, dealing with the ride
Down 2-0 In the first quarter, Syracuse’s Saam Olexo forced a turnover and the Orange set up to clear the ball and get it to its attack. But Tyler Cordes dropped a pass deep in Syracuse’s end and moments later UVA’s Jack Peele cashed in on the mistake.
Syracuse struggled to clear the ball successfully and deal with Virginia’s ride, particularly in the first half. The Orange finished 11-of-15 on clears.
On another play in the first quarter, Syracuse stopped Virginia’s man-up unit with over 30 seconds remaining and looked to go back on the offensive end. Griffin Cook got the ball past the midway line — so the clear counted, statistically — but had his stick checked out of his hand immediately after he crossed over. Cook lost the ball, and Virginia drove back down the other way as Matt Moore scored to make it 5-1.
Former UVA goalie Bobby Gavin made a second-quarter save, and the ball bounced off his pads and went flying into the air. Syracuse scooped it up but then once more couldn’t clear near the midway line. Virginia recovered and set up its offense for a Payton Cormier goal to give his team a 10-3 lead.
Virginia capitalizes on Syracuse defensive mistakes
Freshman Carter Rice sprinted alongside Virginia’s Jack Simmons as he got to X. But Simmons, a lefty, cut back when Rice didn’t expect it, and the freshman tripped on the back of the cage. The Virginia midfielder cut back and scored an easy goal, leaving the SU midfielder behind him on the ground.
The play was characteristic of Syracuse’s defensive issues on Saturday afternoon. There was a spell where the Orange defense played well, sliding quickly with Virginia’s attacks and helping their offense fuel a comeback. Syracuse did get stops, at times. But for the most part, in the first quarter and much of the second half, the defense was far from perfect.
On one instance, Brett Barlow slid toward Virginia’s Xander Dickson to double-team him even though Dickson had just passed the ball. That left Cormier, a talented attack, wide open to score a low bouncing shot. On another, Griffin Schutz got the better of short-stick defensive midfielder Brandon Aviles with a spin-dodge from X and made it 7-1 before Grant Murphy could slide over to help.
And just when Syracuse seemed to be getting a footing in the game in the second half, Virginia answered with seven straight goals. The third epitomized the defensive issues that SU had: Evan Zinn received a pass deep in his own end after a UVA ground ball and sprinted straight ahead, box-to-box. By the time he got down to Syracuse’s end and an Orange defender slid, Zinn had already outpaced everyone and scored in the bottom corner of the net to reestablish the Cavaliers lead.
Syracuse’s offense mounts a comeback, but it isn’t enough
For the second week in a row, Syracuse started very slowly on offense. Against No. 1 Maryland last week, head coach Gary Gait said SU’s biggest mistake was spotting the Terrapins five goals at the beginning and then having to chase the game after that.
Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville, it happened again. Syracuse went down by seven goals in the first quarter. Its only offensive spark came when Owen Seebold miraculously slipped through three long-poles and scored from the doorstep to break-up what would’ve been an 8-0 Virginia run.
Syracuse’s offense did get going midway through the second quarter and continued immediately out of halftime. It scored four straight to make it a three-goal game.
Cook started the run when he sprinted from X around to the front of the cage, and Virginia’s defense forgot to slide with him. He finished easily. Then Brendan Curry inverted and Lucas Quinn paralleled his movement — Quinn cut and found a pocket of space in between the Virginia defense. Curry found him for the second goal.
Syracuse continued that momentum right after halftime when Cook fired home a rising shot, and Cordes found Quinn right after an SU man-up opportunity ended. Ultimately, Virginia answered right back with a 7-0 run and sealed the victory.
The post Observations from Syracuse vs. Virginia: Phaup and LaSalla, SU’s struggles to clear appeared first on The Daily Orange.