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Syracuse Struggles on Defense Again, Falls to Notre Dame

It’s not panic time yet for fans of Syracuse men’s lacrosse, but there might be some cause for concern. The #4 Orange (4-3, 1-2 ACC) played poorly in several facets of the game in Saturday’s 18-11 loss against #9 Notre Dame (5-1, 1-1 ACC).

Despite the star power SU brings to the table, it’s been inconsistency that has plagued this year’s experienced group. Outside of a dominant 20-10 win against Virginia back on February 27th, Syracuse has rarely played their best on both sides of the ball. One recurring problem has been the source of that inconsistency: faceoffs.

Against Notre Dame on Saturday, the Orange won just 9 of 32 faceoffs in the game. It’s the second consecutive game SU has been dominated in the faceoff battle. Against Duke on March 25th, the Orange won just 8 of 32.

SU’s Danny Varello (white) battles a Notre Dame player in a faceoff for possession. Varello won just two of seven faceoffs on the day.

“We were nine of 32 on the faceoffs. That’s an awful lot of possessions, and their faceoff guy [Kyle Gallagher] was terrific. Not only was he good at the faceoffs, but he was good at picking it up,” head coach John Desko said. “If you don’t have the ball, you’re not going to score. We just gave them too many opportunities.”


At times, it felt like all Syracuse was doing was playing defense, and the team’s offensive output reflects that. With limited possessions, only redshirt-senior attackman Stephen Rehfuss tallied three or more goals for SU. Senior midfielder Jamie Trimboli scored just once and breakout freshman Owen Hiltz was held without a goal.

Syracuse freshman attackman Owen Hiltz (77) attempts to evade the coverage of Notre Dame defenseman Jack Kielty (10). Hiltz ended the day with two points and was held without a goal in a game for the first time this year.

The added stress led Syracuse’s defense to buckle under relentless Notre Dame pressure. The Fighting Irish racked up 47 total shots in the game. At one point, Notre Dame scored four goals in 1:40 of gametime.

“I think just all around we have to be faster, bigger, stronger. They outworked us,” said redshirt junior defenseman Brett Kennedy. “Every time the ball was on the ground, they were even - forget the faceoffs - just on defense and offense, they were out-hustling us.”

Notre Dame’s onslaught left SU grasping for momentum that never came. SU led 8-7 with 5:08 left in the 2nd quarter before seven unanswered Fighting Irish goals left the Orange flat-footed. Syracuse wouldn’t score in the final 17 minutes of the game on the way to a disappointing upset loss.

#4 Syracuse is back in the Dome on Thursday when they host UAlbany. Countdown to Faceoff will start at 4:30 P.M. for the 5 P.M. opening faceoff.