Syracuse men’s lacrosse faces new foe, searches for second straight win
The middle of March. Perhaps the most exciting time of year in college athletics. Tightly contested battles between some of amateur sports’ best athletes, thrilling matchups contested by both longtime powerhouses and up-and-coming new blood, and highlight reel moments to be played back for years to come. Oh, and March Madness is going on too.
Syracuse men’s lacrosse (4-4, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) ended a four-game losing skid last time out against Hofstra in decisive fashion, handing the Pride a dose of humility in a 16-8 thumping. The Orange - finally out of a stretch of four ranked opponents in a row - played like a team unburdened, overcoming an early three-goal deficit to reel off a 10-1 run while holding Hofstra scoreless for over 20 minutes. Team point leaders Joey Spallina and Owen Hiltz continued their outstanding seasons, chipping seven and six points toward the winning effort. Another player continuing a solid campaign was goalie Will Mark. The senior stopped 13 Hofstra shots, extending his nation-leading total to 118 saves on the season.
LISTEN: Syracuse attackman Joey Spallina opened up the second half in style with a sneaky goal. The freshman has scored in every game thus far. @AndrewSelover had the call.— WAER Sports (@WAERSports) March 15, 2023
🎙️@waer883, https://t.co/BG0Q3sGq3P pic.twitter.com/Wh4SGOxR2n
“It’s really hard when you work every day for something - you think about it when you go to bed and you think about it when you wake up - and you don’t get it,” Mark said. “We’re lucky enough where we have so many games left so we have the opportunity to prove ourselves time and time again.”
That next opportunity comes Tuesday in the JMA Wireless Dome when St. Bonaventure (1-6, 0-0 Atlantic 10 Conference) visits Syracuse for the first time ever. This is the schools' first meeting on the field since the Bonnies revived their men’s lacrosse program in 2019. For the most part, it’s been a rough start for the St. Bonaventure lacrosse revival. It took one-and-a-half seasons (including the shortened 2020 campaign) for the Bonnies to earn a first victory, coming in the 2021 season opener against Quinnipiac. However, 2022 seemed to mark a turning point for the program, as the Bonnies went 11-4 en route to a MAAC regular season championship before falling in the conference title game. That success looks short-lived in St. Bonaventure’s inaugural season in the A10. Overall, while the Bonnies have struggled everywhere they’ve played, those challenges have only intensified away from home: a 5-25 record all-time when not playing at the Marra Athletics Complex, including an 0-4 away mark in 2023.
The standings page is dismal for St. Bonaventure, but there have been few bright spots on the roster. Goalie Cristoferro Cucciuffo has played well in the cage despite bleak circumstances, saving exactly 50 percent of the shots he’s faced and earning an Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week nod. The defense has not been the main issue for the Bonnies. The offense ranks at the bottom of the A10 - and 67th out of 72 schools in Division I - with just 8.14 goals per game. For context, Syracuse has scored at least eight goals in every game this season except for its season-opening 7-5 win over Vermont. The Bonnies’ man-up offense has been even worse, converting just two of 19 attempts on the year, good for third-to-last in the country this season. The offensive leader is Jake Rose, who scored 14 goals while adding seven assists in 2023. Sean Westley has added 20 points of his own as well, but they’re the only two St. Bonaventure players in double digits for points at the moment.
Two big-time saves from the freshman Cucciuffo— Bonnies Men’s Lacrosse (@BonniesMLAX) March 14, 2023
Part 1 pic.twitter.com/jl3TDiqtlx
The game sees Syracuse come home after a game on Long Island, while the Bonnies are in the midst of a four-game road trip that began last week in Buffalo against Canisius and will continue on to Marquette and Hobart in the upcoming weeks. For what it’s worth, the Orange are not complaining about being back in Central New York.
“It’s nice when we get to go back upstate and we get to play in the Dome. We try to use that to our advantage when we recruit,” head coach Gary Gait said after the shiver-inducing victory over Hofstra.
“Yeah, I definitely love the Dome after this game, not gonna lie,” Spallina added.
Syracuse and St. Bonaventure do battle in the JMA Wireless Dome Tuesday, March 21 at 6 p.m. You can catch all the action right here on WAER, starting with McClurg Team Countdown to Faceoff at 5:30 p.m.