April 23, 2011

Palasek, Syracuse Bust Rutgers Zone, Win Easy at ESPNU Warrior Classic

by Jason Remillard | LaxMagazine.com | ESPNU Warrior Classic Blog Replay

Tommy Palasek, a key component of Syracuse's attack against zone defenses, scored three goals and dished three assists in the Orange's 12-2 victory Saturday over Rutgers at Rentschler Field.

© Jim O'Connor

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- There was no letdown, no looking ahead.

The Syracuse University men's lacrosse team easily could have taken Rutgers University lightly Saturday at the ESPNU Warrior Classic, instead focusing on next weekend's matchup with top-ranked and undefeated Notre Dame.

Instead, the Orange had tunnel vision, and the result was a 12-2 Big East Conference victory over Rutgers at Rentschler Field. Junior attackman Tommy Palasek had perhaps his best game in a Syracuse uniform, netting three goals and three assists.

While the win gave this senior class 57 wins over four years -- tying the school record set by the Class of 1986 -- there was no desire whatsoever to wax nostalgic on that achievement.

"The No. 1 team is coming to town next week," said senior John Galloway, the winningest goalie in NCAA history. "That's all we're focusing on."

No. 4 Syracuse (13-1, 5-0) used a patient offense to attack the Rutgers zone defense. The Orange has been facing zones almost exclusively for the past several games, so it certainly knows by now how to attack it.

If any school knows anything about zone defenses, it's one that that has become famous for it on the basketball court. On the lacrosse field, the Orange is showing proficiency at solving them.

"I think that offensively we're clicking and just keep clicking," Palasek said. "We just keep pushing up what we do in practice. We expect a zone every week, and we just need to stay sharp and execute our zone offenses."

Rutgers scored the first goal of the game, 3:56 into the first quarter. From there, the Syracuse defense clamped down and kept the Scarlet Knights (5-7, 0-3) off the scoreboard for 53:30, until Kory Kelly scored with 2:34 remaining.

Part of Rutgers' game plan was to attack Syracuse's short-stick defensive midfielders. Those players -- Tim Harder, Kevin Drew and Joe Moore -- were up to the task and were helped along by SU's defensive stalwart, long pole Joel White.

"They've been playing the best lacrosse," White said of the d-middies. "They're really bringing up our defense, just really holding it down. It's going unnoticed on how much they get dodged on and how much they stop their guy one-on-one."

The Syracuse defense needed to be on its game in part because of Rutgers' dominance at the faceoffs. The Scarlet Knights won 12 of the 18 draws in the game, thanks to Christopher Mattes, and attempted to use that to slow the tempo of the game. However, the Orange ended many of those possessions by forcing turnovers (24 in all).

"They have such a terrific faceoff man," Syracuse coach John Desko said. "A faceoff man like that lets the other team play slower."

Syracuse only has to look as far back as last Saturday to find another stretch where it held the opposition scoreless for 50-plus minutes. SU kept Providence from scoring for 50:07 in their game at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Wins against Providence, Hobart and now Rutgers were a good elixir for the Orange after a disappointing loss to Cornell on April 12.

"It's been nice because that was a tough loss against Cornell," said sophomore Jojo Morasco, who had two goals and two assists. "We kind of took that into the next couple of games and kept trying to improve in every spot we didn't improve in the Cornell game. We've really been focusing on playing a full 60 minutes."

Collin Donahue scored his first two goals of the season for SU, while Jovan Miller added a pair. Syracuse outshot Rutgers 35-16 and held a 31-27 edge in groundballs.

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