Spencer Bodian | Staff PhotographerMen's Lacrosse
Syracuse’s rigorous stretch continues with Hobart rivalry game
Before Syracuse took the field Saturday against Rutgers, SU knew what to expect. The situation was familiar — unranked Villanova upset the Orange three weeks prior on a quick Saturday turnaround for Syracuse.
Even so, the Orange started sluggishly against RU, trailing by as many as five goals to another unranked team, before coming back in the fourth quarter. After the game, SU midfielder JoJo Marasco said that for 45 minutes, it felt like Villanova all over again.
“We started off slow and they came out real hot,” Marasco said. “I think they took advantage. They saw that.”
Syracuse will face yet another quick turnaround on Tuesday against Hobart (5-6, 2-3 Eastern College Athletic) at 7 p.m. in the Carrier Dome with the Kraus-Simmons Trophy on the line. It will be the third straight game the Orange (9-2, 3-1 Big East) will play on short rest.
Each time, SU has come out sluggish. First it allowed the first four goals against then-No. 2 Cornell. Then it allowed the first two against the Scarlet Knights before winning 12-11.
“You almost expected a game like this, having three games in one week and having to come back against Princeton at their place,” Syracuse head coach John Desko said after Saturday’s win over RU, “then preparing for Cornell and playing them Wednesday night – another one-goal game.”
Desko said his players were probably a “little bit tired” and came out a “little bit flat” because of it. But in each game, Desko’s team has pulled itself out of its early-game rut for an impressive victory.
But the Orange has needed exceptional performances from Luke Cometti and Marasco. Cometti has tallied 10 goals in his last two games, including four in Saturday’s decisive fourth quarter, while Marasco has recorded 10 points.
But it speaks to the moxie of Desko’s team. Slow starts haven’t fazed SU, as it has picked up three wins in the last week. And while Syracuse has leaned heavily on its seniors and stars, it’s seen the previously unknown make key contributions, as well.
Seldom-used midfielder Cal Paduda won six crucial faceoffs against Rutgers, and freshman defender Ryan Palasek saw his first meaningful action of the season, causing one of the game’s biggest turnovers.
“There’s some merit having to come back against a team,” Desko said, “especially the way we did today.”
A matchup with the Scarlet Knights should have been the perfect remedy for the Orange’s recent struggles, but they again surfaced.
SU struggled at the faceoff X early, and again was sloppy on the offensive end. At this point, Syracuse is playing in games almost as often as it practices. The legs aren’t much more exhausted than usual, SU midfielder Henry Schoonmaker said, but there’s simply not as much time to prepare.
“You kind of wish that we got a little more time to prepare because a lot of times, like Rutgers, we had one day off, then all we had was pregame,” Schoonmaker said. “So we didn’t get maybe like one film session on them.”
With first-line midfielder Scott Loy sidelined by a left leg injury that will likely keep him out on Tuesday, Schoonmaker has gotten the majority of the time with the Orange’s top line. That, coupled with his expanded role of playing the wing on faceoffs, has put Schoonmaker on the field as much as almost anyone.
It’s a grueling stretch, and he even admitted he wishes Syracuse could have more time to work out, but he embraces the challenge the chaotic week and expanded role have brought.
“Definitely a little more fatigued than I have been, but I don’t mind,” Schoonmaker said. “I kind of like it.”
It’s led to games that are closer than the Orange would like. SU had just two days between the Cornell and Rutgers games, so Desko focused much of his early week preparation on the Big Red.
It’s fostered a survive-and-advance mentality. The win over the Scarlet Knights might have needed a miraculous comeback and been far from convincing, but it’s as good as the head coach could have asked for.
“We’re just gutting it out right now,” Desko said. “I think we’ve been well prepared going into these games — as well as we could. … Didn’t like doing it how we had to do it, but I guess the bright spot is we did what we had to do to win the game.”
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