Three games in, it seems seventh-ranked Syracuse men’s lacrosse is still trying to figure itself out. It has one of the best midfield lines in the nation, one of the best attack lines in the nation, but the biggest question mark for this team is the defense. SU was gassed against Army, stellar against Virginia when it held UVA to zero goals in the fourth quarter, but made some fans second guess themselves after Vermont.
Despite all that, head coach John Desko thinks the Orange defense played just fine in Saturday’s 17-13 win over the Catamounts.
“I thought we played pretty well on defense, considering the number of opportunities that they had,” Desko said.
The large amount of opportunities came from the face-off X. UVM’s Tommy Burke dominated Jakob Phaup and Danny Varello, winning 71% of the faceoffs. Yes, the Orange gave up 52 shots. But it was Drake Porter who gave Syracuse the edge. The fifth-year goalie racked up a career high 20 saves, earning Pepsi Player of the Game. The last time an SU goalie put up that many saves at net was Peter Coluccini back in 2007.
LISTEN: @CuseMLAX head coach John Desko praised the effort of goalie Drake Porter in SU's 17-13 win over @UVMmlax on Saturday. The Canadian finished the game with a career-high 20 saves. pic.twitter.com/ImJzOfuBgM
— WAER Sports (@WAERSports) March 8, 2021
This time around was different. For the first time in 372 days, fans were allowed in the Dome. Porter loved every bit of it.
“Just having fans back is awesome,” Porter said. “I love all our fans. I love Syracuse. I love the town, I love the city, I love the students, so to have the people in there who supported us for a while means a lot to me.”
Seeing fans in the Dome will hopefully be something that is no longer unusual as the season goes on. Syracuse continues its homestand this Friday against Stony Brook.
In this week’s USILA poll, the Orange remained seventh in the rankings. The Seawolves only received three votes, three less than the Catamounts.
This week, the Syracuse defense faces another tall task. Dylan Pallonetti leads Stony Brook with 20 points, three more than the Orange’s leading point scorer, Stephen Rehfuss. His abilities don’t go unnoticed. The redshirt freshman earned America East Rookie of the Week honors for the third time this season. Stony Brook head coach Anthony Gilardi had plenty of praise for Pallonetti on Tuesday.
“He’s tough, he’s physical. He can shoot it, he can feed it,” Gilardi said. “He’s unselfish… his ability to dodge with his head up is probably his best attribute. We’re really excited that he’s a Seawolf.”
The Seawolves come from the America East Conference, sitting at 2-2 overall. Currently, Gilardi’s squad has lost two in a row to Hofstra on February 27 and UMBC in a triple overtime thriller last Saturday.
Despite the low notes, Stony Brook has the chance to give the Syracuse defense fits from not just Pallonetti, but the entire team. The Seawolves lead the America East with 63 scored goals, 17 more than Vermont.
If the Syracuse defense can’t get it done, they may have to rely on Drake Porter once again. In his career, the Aurora, Ontario native puts up 13.8 saves per game against America East opponents. But Porter believes his 20 saves against Vermont can’t go in the history books without credit for his defense.
“They played a ton, they were tired, they were exhausted, and they fought all game,” Porter said. “For them to give me those looks all day, it meant a lot to me, and I am so unbelievably proud of those guys.”
Porter will look to stay proud of his defense and the rest of his Syracuse squad this Friday against Stony Brook. It will be the first ever matchup between the in-state opponents and third this season against America East opponents. Countdown to Faceoff begins at 12:30 p.m. on the original home of the Orange, WAER.