Men's lacrosse

Syracuse defense looks to solve communication breakdowns that surfaced in ACC tournament

Logan Reidsma | Staff Photographer

Duke's Jordan Wolf finishes a shot over Bobby Wardwell last Friday in the ACC semifinals. The Orange's defensive breakdowns led to 30 goals allowed in the ACC tournament.

The bus ride home after Syracuse’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament finals loss to Notre Dame on Sunday was more about preparing than reflecting.

Instead of trying to forget one of the most heartbreaking losses of the season — a contest in which SU allowed 15 goals for the second straight game — the defensive unit watched game film to pinpoint the mistakes it needed to correct.

“We like to improve,” SU defender Matt Harris said. “I know there’s not much you can do on the field right after the game, but I think watching film is just as important as practice.”

After going through a five-game stretch to end the regular season in which the No. 4 Orange (10-4, 2-3 ACC) allowed just 9.2 goals per game, the SU back line regressed. Syracuse allowed Duke and Notre Dame to find the cage a combined 30 times in its two ACC tournament games, and now has a nonconference game against Colgate (9-6, 4-4 Patriot) to shake off the dust before the team dives into the NCAA tournament.

“That loss was on the defense as a whole,” senior goalie Dominic Lamolinara said. “And we shouldn’t have been that close against Duke. I didn’t play that well. It’s got to improve, that’s for sure.”

Harris said the goal for each game is for Syracuse to hold its opponent to fewer than 10 goals — an objective the Orange achieved three times in its five-game winning streak entering the tournament. But then the Orange fell well short of that goal against the Blue Devils and Fighting Irish.

Syracuse’s last-second win over Duke on Friday was arguably its best of the season, but SU head coach John Desko said there were too many mistakes and a lack of communication.

Though the point was well received by the unit, it was hardly something that needed to be hammered home.

“The good thing is we know what we did wrong,” defensive midfielder Tom Grimm said. “So we know what we have to work on. It’d be different if they just outplayed us. It’s just the mental breakdowns on our part.”

Grimm said it was his fault Notre Dame attack Matt Kavanagh poured in four goals against the Orange on Sunday. When Syracuse faced UND on March 29, the SU defense — mostly defender Brandon Mullins — held Kavanagh to no goals and two assists.

This time, with Mullins guarding Kavanagh again, Grimm said he failed to help direct Mullins after he was picked off. It led to two Kavanagh goals that proved fatal in the 15-14 loss.

“I think it was more on our part, to be honest,” Grimm said. “Mullins did a great job on him Sunday. I think he might have scored one goal on Mullins. The rest of them were a lack of communication on my part.”

Defensively, it was a weekend to forget.

It left a bitter taste in the mouth of the entire unit, but SU tried to wash it away immediately by studying on its ride back to Syracuse from Chester, Pa.

This week in practice, the Orange plans to work extensively on its communication and transition defense for Colgate, and more importantly, the NCAA tournament.

“You kind of want to get back on the horse and see what you can do about improving as a player, personally and as a unit,” Harris said. “There’s a sense of urgency after the game to kind of see what went on, talk about mistakes, see how we can fix things.”

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