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Neither Syracuse or Duke were on the front foot early as two of the top 15 scoring offenses struggled to generate any positive scoring chances. Just over two minutes in, SU goalie Bobby Gavin had made two easy saves, and its top attack and midfield lines only recorded one shot on net.
After Tucker Dordevic fired an underhand shot well above the goal and out of play, the ball was worked to second line midfielder Pete Fiorini. But Fiorini lost the ball as he was pressured by Duke’s Kenny Brower who scooped up the ground ball and advanced forward to generate a clear.
But Fiorini returned with high pressure of his own, knocking Brower down to the ground about 10 yards away from goal. The ball came loose and Fiorini picked it up, taking a few steps toward the goal before bouncing a shot over the net and out of play. Then, on SU’s quick restart, Jacob Buttermore worked the ball to Matteo Corsi along the left wing, who scored from 10 yards out for the opening goal.
Syracuse (4-4, 1-1 Atlantic Coast) never trailed again as it defeated No. 11 Duke (8-4, 0-1 ACC) 14-10. Six different players scored goals for the Orange with nine recorded at least a point. Most of SU’s scoring came through the impact of its second and third line midfielders, seeing extended action in a game that head coach Gary Gait believed was Syracuse’s best of the season.
“We need everybody. We need guys in the second, third or fourth line and those guys are getting opportunities to play, and it’s kind of a next man-up mentality,” Gait said. “Today they got opportunities.”
Gait described his midfield unit as “banged up,” with multiple players in the top two lines absent from injuries sustained within the past two weeks. First line midfielder, Lucas Quinn, missed his second consecutive game with a hand injury along with Dami Oladunmoye, who got hurt in the loss to Johns Hopkins. And first line midfielder Griffin Cook went down with an apparent lower-body injury in the third period, according to Gait, which also limited Syracuse’s depth as Duke hinted at a potential comeback in the third quarter.
For the second straight week, freshman Tyler Cordes started on the first line — primarily serving as Quinn’s replacement. But his presence as a regular in the first line allowed him to earn meaningful minutes alongside his prior second-line teammates, which often included players like Corsi and Fiorini. And in a tight contest with Duke on Saturday, allowing them to play extra minutes proved to be beneficial for the Orange.
“The biggest thing is knowing our role and what he can bring to the table,” Corsi said. “When they get tired, we can step in and know our role and contribute.”
Corsi scored his second goal to bring back offensive momentum for Syracuse late in the second period, after Duke had just scored two unanswered goals to pull within three of the Orange. Owen Seebold had just lost the ball off pressure from Wilson Stephenson, but Seebold won the ball back seconds later, preventing another Duke clearance. Thirty seconds later, the ball was worked to Corsi along the left wing who hit a far post shot from 10 yards out to give Syracuse a five point lead.
“W did a great job with our ball movement today and different things that we’ve been practicing for weeks,” Corsi said. “With our second line depth, I think we all contributed very well with our ball movement. I think that was the biggest change going into this week.”
Syracuse also showcased its depth in terms of its lower-line speed. On the Orange’s second goal, Saam Olexo was left a wide-open lane through the middle of Duke’s zone, his third of the season. Nick Caccamo sent a long clear to Olexo at midfield as he ran uncontestedly to score from close range, giving SU a 2-0 after the first five minutes.
Gait said that he expects his second and third line players to become beneficial during the second half of SU’s season, where all but one of its next six games are against ranked opponents.
“They’ve gotten some opportunities before, and now we need them to execute and play. We moved them up the depth chart, and I think we’ll see some of the second and third line guys become impact players here as we go down the stretch of the season,” Gait said.
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