Friday, March 5, 2010

game preview: Syracuse

First big lacrosse weekend of the year. It's not big because it has national title implications. There's a tournament, you see, and the winner might get favorable consideration as to which chumpy tomato can visits their stadium in the first round, but otherwise, it's what happens there that matters. It's big because it's bloody damn Syracuse, and it's #1 vs. #2 to boot. Just like last year. It's big because it's at our house this time, and having beaten them last year in front of a crowd bigger than what would fit in the JPJA, it'd be no fun if we let them return the favor. Losing this game last year was no obstacle to Syracuse's title hopes, obviously, since they're now officially on a streak in that department, but there's no substitute for bragging rights, either.

This could be a big-scoring game. Both UVA and Cuse have had a little bit of trouble keeping the ball out of the back of the net against iffy competition - we're giving up eight goals a game and Syracuse gave up nine to Denver. Offense? No problem. Both teams have done a nice job of getting scoring from all over the field. Syracuse returns their top scorer from last year, Stephen Keogh, who is purely a finisher, and he's tied with fellow attackman Chris Daniello for the goal lead so far. What they don't have is that Kenny Nims-type player from last year who could score despite having all the attention focused on him, and make a ton of plays for his teammates besides. So it's a relief not to see Nims on the other side, but no doubt they feel the same about not having to deal with Danny Glading.

The X-factor is the old F-word: faceoffs. Syracuse has been stellar at them this season, succeeding at nearly a 70% clip. We're almost always at a faceoff disadvantage, but it looks like it'll be magnified on Sunday unless we can duplicate our effort from last week. The offenses and defenses are so very similar, and both teams get quality goaltending. I'd hate for this to be the difference, but it's the only thing separating the teams right now.

But in the end, you really don't need me to tell you what to expect. Just look at the history; you'd have a hard time finding two more closely-matched teams. Starsia is 11-11 against these guys, and overall it's 13-12 in our favor. The last three games have all been decided by a goal, as have seven other games in the series. Six more had two-goal margins. Five have gone overtime. Goals scored by UVA: 334. Goals scored by Syracuse: 334. (Really. It's in the media guide.) Doesn't get any closer than that. Don't expect a blowout either way. If we win, we'll be ranked #1 and I'll tell you we're the team to beat again for the national title. If we lose, I'll just remind you that for the last two years, the regular-season UVA-Syracuse loser has gone on to win the national title.

Football notes here: Mike London had a big ol' press conference today. Most of the important spring schedule stuff is here. The spring roster was also released, and it's notable for who's missing (besides the departed seniors, wise guy):

Patch Duda
Zach Mendez-Zfass (and with him goes our monopoly on Z's)
Daniel Childress
Nate Rathjen
Matt Leemhuis
Staton Jobe
Billy Cuffee
Buddy Ruff
Jack Shields
Keith Payne

The first four were walk-ons that would have been seniors. Leemhuis and Jobe are your answers to the question, "Which fifth-year seniors won't be asked back?" Cuffee and Ruff are academic casualties. Shields had already announced his departure. Payne, well, that's probably still up in the air. I don't know whether he'd be on scholarship or not if he comes back, but it doesn't matter.

So I told you there'd be no problem dropping to 85, and here we are: 85 exactly, 84 if Payne doesn't count. The departures of Leemhuis and Jobe are pretty much totally expected. That puts the recruiting class at 14 at a bare minimum, and you know you never take the bare minimum. I'll be updating the depth chart soon....ish.

Finally, ACC Sports Journal had a chat with our old friend Pete Gillen. Frankly, it's not to be missed - Gillen's as quotable as ever. Best line: “The players that I recruited [to VMI] wanted to kill me because I told them they got free haircuts, white pants and nice shoes. I didn’t lie, but I didn’t tell them the whole story.” Go listen to that, it's worth it.

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