Thursday, February 26, 2009

game preview: Syracuse

Lacrosse game previews aren't going to be a regular thing (I'm not even sure if basketball ones are going to be regular after this year) but the game tomorrow is too big to ignore.

This is, of course, #1 vs. #2, a regular season matchup you rarely see in basketball and practically never in football. And it's in the Carrier Dome, Syracuse's one-size-fits-all domed stadium that's named for an air conditioner manufacturer and not air-conditioned. Klockner is a very nice stadium, but the dome has one thing going for it that Klockner does not: as lacrosse stadiums go, it's monstrously huge, and should be, as lacrosse games go, noisy (although the likelihood of all 50,000 being filled is pretty much nil.)

Both teams are going to look different than they did last year. Ben Rubeor is off to the pros; Syracuse can one-up that by losing Tewaaraton Trophy (the lax Heisman) winner Mike Leveille. Garrett Billings has taken over the scoring reins for us, while attackman Kenny Nims has led Syracuse in points in both their games this year.

We'll have to contend with their excellent sophomore goalie again, John Galloway. Galloway started every game on their schedule last year as a freshman, and got off to a great start in their first game against Providence, making four saves and allowing just two goals. Admittedly he wasn't tested much; Syracuse positively crushed the Friars, 22-3. Adam Ghitelman played, and won, the regular season game against Syracuse for us last year, but by the time the playoffs rolled around he'd been replaced by Bud Petit. Ghitelman's been solid this year in the cupcake run with a save percentage of .615 - a colossal improvement over his start last year. I don't need to emphasize that in the kind of close games we've had against the Orange, at some point a key save, or lack thereof, is going to make or break the game.

Obviously, though, the elephant in the room is the faceoffs. Faceoffs are going to feature two different players than they did last year. Syracuse will use Jake Moulton, who apprenticed last year under a since-graduated All-American. We didn't lose anyone to graduation, we just sort of fired Garrett Ince and Brian McDermott from the role. Ince was a miserable 8-for-27 in last year's loss.

To me, the faceoffs are far and away the biggest takeaway from this game. Getting the win would of course be great and all, but if we lose, there are still plenty of grade-A opponents on the schedule, and if we win, well, we just get to wear the #1 as a big red target on our backs for a little while and besides it didn't mean anything when the tournament rolled around last year. But we're going to learn something in the faceoff department. We only get a year of Chad Gaudet in the job, but he was brought in specifically to take faceoffs and do very little else, and I'm not above saying that a huge part of our championship hopes this year rest on him. Win or lose, I'll be happy if he tops 50%.

Bonus link: the CDP lets you know just how totally sweet are the swim teams. Just as an example: four of the top five lanes in tonight's 500 freestyle at the ACC championships are 'Hoos - and last night's 800 free relay was won by a 10-second margin, which is roughly half the length of the pool. Yes, I'm gonna bug you again: if you live in or around DC, you ought to go - it won't cost you a penny.

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