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No. 3 Syracuse men’s lacrosse looks to continue hot streak against top-ranked Notre Dame

Joey Spallina (22, Blue) backs down a defender during Syracuse’s win over Hobart
Joey Spallina (22, Blue) backs down a defender during Syracuse’s win over Hobart

Things couldn’t be going any better for Syracuse as of late. After a heartbreaking overtime loss at home against No. 5 Army at the end of February, the Orange have had a scorching-hot March. Joey Spallina and company have rattled off five-straight wins, including triumphs over No. 2 Johns Hopkins and No. 4 Duke.

Last week’s road win over unranked Hobart continued a run of impressive defensive efforts from SU. After leading by just one goal after a half, the defensive unit went on lockdown, shutting out the Statesmen offense for the last 16 minutes of the game.

“We just need to execute better.” said Head Coach Gary Gait. “We were doing a great job of communicating and getting on the same page. We had some communication errors where we were switching and had two guys covering one guy and we just were a little bit out of sorts and we got that organized.”

Bill Dwan (35, Blue) guards an attacker in SU’s win over Hobart last weekend
Bill Dwan (35, Blue) guards an attacker in SU’s win over Hobart last weekend

On Saturday, Syracuse (9-2, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) has a chance to add what would be its biggest win of the season in South Bend against No. 1 Notre Dame (5-1, 0-0 ACC). The matchup is the only time SU takes on the reigning national champions in the regular season.

But for the Orange, it hasn’t been very fun against the Irish lately. Syracuse has dropped its last six games against Notre Dame and have lost the last five by at least seven goals. As far as games played in South Bend, nothing has been going the way of the ‘Cuse. In the last two games played at Arlotta Stadium, the Orange have lost by an average of 15 goals.

“We’re just playing. We just focus on the next game.” Gait said on the team’s preparation for Notre Dame. “That’s one thing these guys have really bought into. The next opportunity is the only opportunity, and that’s the way we’re looking at it.”

This year, the Orange and the Irish are a better matchup than in previous seasons. While Notre Dame comes into the game as the top-ranked team in the ACC in goals per game, assists per game and man-up scoring percentage, Syracuse isn’t that far behind statistically. Gary Gait’s squad ranks above ND in shots per game and shot percentage.

Coach Gait is confident about how his team has been working together over the past month:

“I think you're just seeing the team get closer together, continue to develop chemistry, communication, you know all the things that we've been working on all year are starting to come together a little bit. When you play as a team as one unit you can have success on on either end of the field and I think we're starting to see some of that.”

Just as they were last season, the Irish are led by Attacker Jake Taylor along with Chris and Pat Kavanagh. Taylor put four shots past Syracuse goalie Will Mark in last year’s game, and leads Notre Dame with 22 goals in just six games. Chris and Pat Kavanagh have 30 and 29 points respectively this season, continuing the momentum from their stellar 2023 postseason run.

The Irish aren’t just strong near the goal. Faceoff man Will Lynch boasts the fourth-highest faceoff percentage at just under 62%. The player in third? None other than SU’s Mason Kohn. The Tufts transfer has won 129 draws this season, second out of all ACC FOGOs.

The Orange’s No. 3 ranking is the highest of the Gary Gait era to date. They get a chance to improve on that against top-ranked Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon. You can hear every second of the top-three showdown live from South Bend on 88.3 FM and at 2:00 PM. Pregame coverage begins with McClurg Remodeling Countdown to Faceoff at 1:30.