March 15, 2014

Syracuse Upends Johns Hopkins at Homewood

by Matt DaSilva | | Twitter

Syracuse handed Johns Hopkins its first loss of the season Saturday afternoon at Homewood Field. (John Strohsacker)

BALTIMORE — Syracuse survived another futile faceoff performance and the most prolific offensive display by a Johns Hopkins player in 16 years to defeat the Blue Jays 12-10 at Homewood Field in a matchup of college lacrosse superpowers Saturday.

The 11th-ranked Orange (4-2) earned its second straight win after consecutive losses to ACC foes Maryland and Virginia, dealing third-ranked Johns Hopkins (5-1) its first loss of the season. Syracuse now has won seven of the last eight games in the series.

Saturday's win felt a lot like 2013. The Orange looked lost on faceoffs, versatile on offense, stout on defense — with the exception of an eight-goal outburst by Johns Hopkins sophomore attackman Ryan Brown, the most by a Blue Jay since Dylan Schlott scored seven against Villanova in 1998 — and opportunistic all over the field.

"It's a huge win for us," Syracuse defenseman Matt Harris said.

Attackman Dylan Donahue scored three goals and midfielder Billy Ward added two goals and two assists to lead a balanced offensive effort for the Orange.

But the real story was the defense, and Syracuse played a lot of it, thanks to a 21-for-25 performance by Johns Hopkins specialist Drew Kennedy. Employing a mix of man-to-man and zone, the Orange limited looks for Wells Stanwick (two assists) and Brandon Benn (one assist), leaving Brown to do all the heavy lifting for the Blue Jays.

"I'm not really sure we could've played any worse," Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. "We got one guy with eight goals. That's great. Where was everybody else?"

Even goalie Dom Lamolinara (11 saves) got in on the act defending, often leaving the crease to double-team Stanwick behind or cut off passing lanes.

Syracuse also got a boost from Harris, normally a long-stick midfielder, who made his first start of the season on close defense after switching positions in a 14-8 win over St. John's last week. Harris finished with a goal and four ground balls, working in concert with defensemen Brandon Mullins and Sean Young to confuse the Blue Jays' renovated offense.

"In previous games, the goals we were giving up were a little too easy for me. We mixed and matched and tried different players at that third spot on close defense," Orange coach John Desko said. "And finally last week we decided to bring Matt down. He's a senior captain, and we wanted to eliminate a lot of those easy goals and mistakes."

Syracuse twice built four-goal leads. The Orange led 7-3 at halftime and answered a three-goal Johns Hopkins run (all scored by Brown) with its own three-goal spurt. Harris showed he could still be dangerous in transition, as he took an outlet pass from Lamolinara, faked a pass to his left and scored to put Syracuse ahead 10-6 with 4:03 remaining in the third quarter.

Brown came out firing again in the fourth quarter with three unanswered goals — including an empty-netter from midfield after Lamolinara went offside on a failed clear — to pull the Blue Jays within one. Brown's eighth goal, which left him one shy of an 87-year-old Johns Hopkins record (William Logan scored nine against Virginia in 1927) made it 10-9 with 12:59 left in the game.

Midfielder Nick Weston stopped the bleeding for Syracuse, taking a skip pass over the top of the Blue Jays defense from midfielder Billy Ward (two goals, two assists) and blowing a shot by Johns Hopkins goalie Eric Schneider with 10:26 remaining.

But the Blue Jays answered just 48 seconds later, after another faceoff win, when attackman Wells Stanwick found midfielder Holden Cattoni for a goal at the 9:38 mark that pulled them within one.

Despite trailing 11-10, Johns Hopkins had the momentum. But the Blue Jays' next three possessions resulted in turnovers, first on a shot clock violation, then on a timely strip by Syracuse long-stick midfielder Scott Firman on Johns Hopkins midfielder Rob Guida and finally on a failed clear by Schneider.

Orange attackman Dylan Donahue responded with his third goal of the game, getting topside to his left off of a change-of-pace dodge from behind and scoring to put Syracuse ahead 12-10 with 2:13 remaining.

The Blue Jays had one more chance, courtesy of another Kennedy faceoff win. Cattoni spun off of his defender, got off a lefty shot and hit the post. Orange long-stick midfielder Peter Macartney secured the ground ball near the restraining line and Syracuse held on for the victory.

News and Notes

- Syracuse attackman Randy Staats and midfielder Jordan Evans, both dealing with undisclosed leg injuries, did not play Saturday. Evans was in uniform and participated in pre-game warmups, but did not get into the game.

- The Orange visit Duke next Sunday in a rematch of the 2013 NCAA championship game, in which the Blue Devils' Brendan Fowler exploited Syracuse's faceoff woes. The Orange brought in junior college transfer Mike Iacono as another option this season, but he did not fare any better (1-for-5) than starting specialist Chris Daddio (3-for-16) on Saturday. "In the championship game, we were up 5-0 and 6-1, and all of a sudden they're 14-for-15 on faceoffs in the second and third qurter. So we literally had to stand there and watch them play offense," Desko said. "This is a big challenge going into a game like that. We're working harder than we've ever worked on the faceoff. We'll keep going with it and obviously make some changes if we have to."

- Desko said Harris likely has found a permanent home on close defense, and that he's comfortable with Firman and Macartney receiving most of the reps at long-stick midfield. "Our pole position is probably our deepest position," Desko said. "Especially with the way [Harris] performed and especially being the offensive threat he is, it's a no brainer for us."

- Donahue now has 18 goals on just 27 shots (66.7 percent) this season.

- Pietramala said Johns Hopkins executed poorly in its two-man sets on offense and criticized the defense for playing "extraordinarily selfish." He also admitted the Blue Jays probably should have played more zone defense and likely underestimated Syracuse's midfield weapons. While Orange midfielder Hakeem Lecky drew the long pole and did not score, Loy and Ward exploited their short-stick matchups. "The three kids on their first midfield are better in person than they are on film, and they're more athletic in person than they are on film," Pietramala said.

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