Meet Virginia: After beginning year as starting attack, Maltz heads home to Virginia as 2nd-line midfielder
Spencer Bodian | Staff Photographer
Derek Maltz has long known where to jog out to prior to the opening whistle.
The senior captain, who has become a staple of one of the country’s best offenses in his three-plus years at Syracuse, began the season on the starting attack alongside Dylan Donahue and Kevin Rice.
The spot he expected to be in while fielding questions about SU’s potent attack in the weeks leading up to the team’s opener against Siena. And the spot he was in when he helped the team to wins over the Saints and then-No. 11 Albany to kick-start the season.
But in the Orange’s 16-8 loss to Maryland on Saturday, Maltz didn’t start and played sparingly with the second midfield line.
“I’m not 100 percent sure what my role is as of now,” Maltz said. “But I’m thinking I’ll be playing a little more midfield than attack. We’ll see.”
SU head coach John Desko shuffled junior transfer Randy Staats into the starting attack against the Terps, and made Maltz a second-line midfielder next to Nicky Galasso and Billy Ward. But against Maryland, SU struggled at the faceoff X and Maltz — as well as Galasso and Ward — spent the majority of the game on the sideline because the Orange spent a majority of the game on defense.
The unveiling of Desko’s new offensive approach was muffled by an unusually lopsided result, and Maltz will get a second opportunity to transition into the midfield when No. 6 SU (2-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) travels to the senior’s home state to face No. 4 Virginia (5-0) in Charlottesville, Va., at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“I think Derek’s done a very good job making a switch, it’s not easy,” Desko said. “The Maryland game didn’t really give him and those guys a chance, but Virginia should be a good chance.”
In just his third game with Syracuse, including a scrimmage against Towson on Feb. 1, Staats paced the Orange with a team-high seven points in an overtime win over Albany.
Desko has said he’s impressed with how fast Staats has adjusted to Division I lacrosse after transferring from Onondaga Community College and joining the team weeks into its preseason practice schedule.
The coach was also happy with the way Staats fit into the attack, which was evident when Staats’ face appeared on the video board with the rest of the starters before Maryland.
“It was tough watching from the bench,” Maltz said. “But Randy’s doing a really good job and playing with guys like Nicky Galasso and Billy Ward in the midfield is also cool.”
Yet just about all of Maltz’s work with his new line has come in practice. He said that has gone well, and so did Desko. But in the team’s first-ever ACC game, the unit saw the field almost only in man-up situations.
Maltz did net a goal off a pass from Staats early in the second quarter, but the majority of the Orange’s sparse offensive sets consisted of the starting attack plus the first-line midfield of Henry Schoonmaker, Hakeem Lecky and Scott Loy.
Desko hoped that Staats would fully acclimate himself with his new attack mates while Maltz quarterbacked the offense from the midfield, as the head coach said it was Maltz’s vision and knowledge of Syracuse’s system that prompted the move.
Rice, a starting junior attack, orchestrates the SU offense as a feeder behind the cage, and said that having both Staats and Maltz on the field together, regardless of the positions, is beneficial to the team.
“They’re both very talented and for me it will be good if they can both get out there to have two big targets,” Rice said. “It’s never bad to have options, and we do.”
The defensively savvy Terrapins — along with faceoff specialist Charlie Raffa — didn’t allow that to happen.
A trip to Virginia doesn’t promise to be any less competitive. It’s another chance for Maltz get comfortable out of the starting lineup and at a new spot on the field.
Said Maltz: “It will be good to get out there for another go. I’m just trying to help this team.”
Published on February 27, 2014 at 12:18 am