SU looks to get to .500 in ACC play against No. 5 North Carolina
Syracuse matches up with a familiar foe on Saturday in the form of fifth-ranked North Carolina. Since moving to the ACC back in 2013, Syracuse has had the upper hand over the Tar Heels, leading the series 7-3 in those matchups. Back in 2019, the last time these two teams played, UNC won a thrilling 11-10 game at the ACC Tournament. Up 10-7 with just over six minutes to go, Syracuse faltered down the stretch. North Carolina scored four goals in the final four minutes, including the go-ahead goal by attacker Matt Gavin with 1:07 to go. North Carolina is ranked in the top five for a reason, and head coach John Desko knows his team is in for a tough challenge on Saturday.
“This is a really good team...they got some very good offensive players, their goalie has been playing well this year and their defense is solid,” Desko said.
On Syracuse’s end, the Orange are going to have to win in all phases of the game to beat North Carolina. For redshirt senior attackman Stephen Rehfuss, that means getting revenge for the 2019 loss. In that game, Rehfuss had 4 assists but no goals against the Tar Heels. The redshirt senior is second on the Orange with 20 goals and leads the team in assists with 18 on the year. Against a team as good as North Carolina, Rehfuss’s impact on the game will need to be felt in multiple ways for SU to come out on top.
“Over the past couple years of my career, I’ve been known as a feeder so people haven’t been sliding as much to me recently...Teams have kind of forced me to become a scorer and I’ve tried to take advantage of the opportunities there,” Rehfuss said.
The offensive end has been steady for Syracuse all year with Rehfuss at the forefront, but the Orange have struggled in other phases of the game. One key stat to monitor for these teams on Saturday is going to be at the faceoff X. Before last Thursday’s win against UAlbany, Syracuse had been getting dominated by their opponents. Against Duke and Notre Dame SU only won a combined 17/64 faceoffs. However, against the Great Danes, the Orange won 15/25 faceoffs, a major turnaround. For North Carolina, in Saturday’s loss to Virginia, they also got destroyed in faceoffs by going 12/38. Whoever wins more faceoffs will have a great chance to win this game according to coach Desko.
“We’ll see how we do facing off because they’ve been good at faceoffs...we’ll have to have a good effort to win the game,” Desko said.
Syracuse looks to make it two wins in a row on Saturday and avenge 2019’s postseason loss against North Carolina. Tune in to Countdown to faceoff at 2:30 before a 3 o’clock faceoff on WAER.