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No. 12 Syracuse men’s lacrosse falls to No. 4 Virginia 19-12 after another lackluster start

Syracuse's offense celebrates a goal during its loss to No. 4 Virginia.
Syracuse's offense celebrates a goal during its loss to No. 4 Virginia.

No. 12 Syracuse men's lacrosse (8-6, 1-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) fell to No. 4 Virginia (9-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) on Saturday afternoon, 19-12.

Syracuse has suffered from slow starts all season, and this game was no different. From the opening face-off, things looked downhill for the Orange. The Cavaliers opened the scoring three minutes in and never looked back.

This start was the worst SU had seen all year. Virginia came out of the gate red-hot and went up 6-0. This electric open to the contest was all possible because of the Hoos' early dominance in the battle at the X. The Cavaliers won five of the first six face-offs, which allowed them to maintain possession for the majority of the opening frame. Struggles in the face-off circle have been a constant issue. Syracuse is the eighth worst in the country in face-off win percentage.

When asked about the issues with the face-off specialists, Syracuse head coach Gary Gait was short and sweet.

"The strategy is to try and win as many as we can. We're just hoping one of them lights a spark and gets on fire."

Face-offs were not the only thing that caused issues for the ‘Cuse early on. UVA attacker Xander Dickson claimed his eighth hat trick of the season just 11 minutes into the game. The redshirt senior did not stop there; he tormented SU all afternoon as he tied his career high with seven goals and nine points.

"When we give up five or six-goal runs, we can't come back from that," Gait said after the game.

Slow starts for SU have become synonymous with games against Virginia. In both of last year's losses to the Cavaliers, the Orange went down big early. The Hoos took a quick 8-1 advantage in the first go-around and held an early 6-3 lead in the second matchup.

The Orange began to bounce back near the end of the first quarter. Attacker Cole Kirst and Midfielder Michael Leo each found the back of the net to cut the deficit to five.

SU's Alex Simmons (19, blue) scores with a behind-the-back shot in No. 12 Syracuse's loss to No. 4 Virginia.
SU's Alex Simmons (19, blue) scores with a behind-the-back shot in No. 12 Syracuse's loss to No. 4 Virginia.

SU attacker Alex Simmons headlined the second quarter. The Canadian scored three goals in a span of eight minutes.

The battle at the X went much better for Syracuse in this frame. Sophomore Jack Fine won three of his four face-off opportunities to help the 'Cuse head into halftime down just 10-5.

After an even second quarter, Virginia came out of the break on fire with three straight goals. Xander Dickson led the run with two scores. SU did not roll over, though; it answered with a three-goal run courtesy of Cole Kirst, Billy Dwan, and Owen Hiltz.

After a pair of late third-quarter scores, Virginia entered the fourth with a 15-8 lead.

Syracuse scored a pair of goals to open the final frame. However, UVA quickly closed it out. The Cavaliers went on a 4-0 run to push their lead to 19-10. The Orange tacked on two goals in the final minute but came up short.

Up next on the schedule, the Orange hit the road for their regular-season finale. No. 12 Syracuse plays No. 2 Duke (11-2, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) on Saturday, April 29th. The Blue Devils have won nine of their last ten games, including a victory over then No. 3 Virginia 15-14. Game time is at noon this weekend. WAER's coverage begins with McClurg Team Countdown to Face-off starting at 11:30 a.m.