Men's Lacrosse

Syracuse’s fast-paced style benefits from NCAA rule changes

A familiar scene played out over the course of last season as Syracuse struggled to a 9-8 finish, losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Opposing teams packed it in on the Orange’s high-flying attack. Frustration mounted on the perimeter. A forced shot would be saved, the opponent, now with possession, held the ball as long as possible. And SU’s trademark gun-and-run attack was choked out.

In September, though, the NCAA rules panel approved changes designed to speed up the game. A 30-second shot clock administered by the officials is set to disrupt the oft-used strategy often known as “get it in, keep it in” that overmatched teams used to great effect against teams like Syracuse that preferred a more open game. Heading into the 2013 season, head coach John Desko and his players said they expect the rule change to help the Orange in its quest to return to dominance.

“Without the stalling and teams holding the ball on us it’s going to be a very fast-paced, up-and-down game for us and that’s the lacrosse we like to play,” captain Steve Ianzito said.

In 2012 the Orange remained committed to that style of play despite a change in the tide of the college game. The steadfastness to that version of the game, combined with inexperience, cost SU in its worst season since 2007 when the program missed out on postseason play altogether.

“I think we stayed true to that (style of play) last year as much as we could. I think some staffs might’ve changed and tried to be slower, if anything maybe stall the ball, be a more disciplined with it,” Desko said. “But we knew we had a young group and we had to grow and they were going to make mistakes.”

Throughout the season Desko expects coaches to tinker in their adjustments to the rule change, but ultimately his team has the talent to transcend changes in the game and opposing strategies.

“I think last year with inexperience a lot of players don’t make great decisions,” Desko said. “Are they 10-12-yard shooters but they’re shooting from 14 yards?

“ … All that adds up and it’s really eliminating our mistakes. And that really comes down to the decisions we make as individuals on this team.”

Junior midfielder Chris Daddio echoed Desko’s sentiments. The wide-open style of play is in the program and its players’ very nature, and conscious attempts to marginalize their style frustrated him and his teammates.

While he acknowledged the help the rules provide, the final standing of this year’s team will come down to a more mental commitment, no matter how SU and its opponents adjust.

“It gets real frustrating when we don’t get to do what we’re supposed to do with the run-and-gun offense and everything like that,” Daddio said. “Stuff like that when they pack it in and when they stall the ball against us, it gets frustrating at times. But we just got to learn to keep our head and do what we do.”

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