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No. 15 Syracuse looks ahead to No. 2 Duke for a duel in Durham

Syracuse men’s lacrosse celebrates a goal against Virginia.
Syracuse men’s lacrosse celebrates a goal against Virginia.

This past weekend No. 15 Syracuse men's lacrosse (8-6, 1-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) took a trip down to Charlottesville and fell flat on its face against No. 3 Virginia (9-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference). The ‘Cuse lost 19-12, but the final score does not tell the whole story.

The Cavaliers came out of the gate on fire, and the Orange had no answer. Before Syracuse fans even had the chance to look up, the score was 6-0.

When asked about the early struggles after the game, SU head coach Gary Gait gave credit to UVA.

"The Cavaliers came out ready to play. They were fired up. The difference in the game was the mistakes. I thought we made too many mistakes."

Once the 'Cuse finally settled in, the score was almost even. The Cavaliers outscored the Orange by just one score after SU ended the early six-goal run.

In Saturday's game, the star players for both teams were significant factors in the result but in much different ways. UVA attacker Xander Dickson lit the world on fire. The redshirt senior tied his career high with seven goals and nine points.

"He used his speed on the slick surface to get some shots. [Xander Dickson] had a great game today. That's the way it goes. Someone is going to step up when you play a team that good." Gait said after the game.

On the other side, SU star Joey Spallina was silent most of the afternoon. The Long Island native dished out two assists but never found the back of the net. This marked the first time all season that Spallina did not score a goal.

Slow starts have been an issue for Syracuse most of the season; however, the last time it faced Duke, the Orange began the game strong. After the first frame, SU was up 5-1. This was the only time the 'Cuse has led after the first quarter in ACC play.

The Blue Devils would slowly crawl their way back. After a back-and-forth second quarter Duke cut the deficit to two heading into halftime.

Thanks to two quick SU goals after the break, the Blue Devils saw themselves down by four with 13 minutes left in the third frame. That's when Duke took control; it scored six straight goals to gain the lead heading into the fourth.

The game continued swinging in favor of one team to another. Syracuse outscored Duke three to one in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime.

Syracuse men’s lacrosse celebrates a late goal against Duke.
Syracuse men’s lacrosse celebrates a late goal against Duke.

The extra time didn't last long. Blue Devil's midfielder Charles Balsamo scored just 54 seconds into overtime to end the game.

The two teams are quite different from the last time they faced. Both groups have been on the rise to end the regular season.

Before the defeat at the hands of Virginia, Syracuse had won five of its seven games since Duke, with its only losses coming against two squads now ranked in the top five, No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 4 Johns Hopkins.

Since it toppled Syracuse back in early March, No. 2 Duke (11-2, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) has been on a tear. The Blue Devils have won six of seven contests, with their only loss coming to the top team in the country Notre Dame. Over this stretch, Duke won three games against opponents ranked inside the top ten.

The battle at the X has been a weakness for Syracuse all season long. The story hasn't been the same for Duke. The Blue Devil's faceoff specialist Jake Naso leads the country in faceoffs wins and is second in program history in career faceoff wins with nearly 700. Naso could have his way in the battle at the X against the Orange. SU ranks eighth worst in the country in faceoff win percentage and has won the faceoff battle in just three of its 14 games.

On offense, the attacker duo of Dyson Williams, the team leader in goals with 41, and Brennan O'Neill, who boasts 38 scores of his own, lead the Blue Devils. The pairing sliced up Syracuse for six goals in the first matchup. O'Neill is second in the country in points and is an all-around threat SU must keep in check if it wants a chance at a victory. The New York native is one of two Division I players to rank top-20 in points, goals, and assists per game.

The Orange and the Blue Devils go head-to-head for the second time Saturday at noon. WAER's coverage begins at 11:30 with McClurg Team Countdown to Faceoff.