Men's Lacrosse

No. 1 Syracuse limiting turnovers on offense

Colin Davy | Asst. Photo Editor

Stronger passing has led to fewer turnovers from Syracuse. It's helped the Orange stay ahead in one-goal games against strong ACC competition such as Duke, Notre Dame and North Carolina.

Week after week, Syracuse head coach John Desko mentioned one thing the Orange could improve upon: turnovers.

“We need to play better than we did in our last road trip, minimize our turnovers,” Desko said March 16.

“Get rid of our turnovers, have better possessions against these good teams … All of your possessions are important,” he said a week later.

“We want to keep the turnover numbers down,” Desko said April 4.

In the middle of the season, the Orange struggled to limit turnovers. Some bad passes sailed out of bounds. Occasionally, the offense tried dodging and fighting through double teams rather than passing to the open man. Other times, players peppered the goalie with an easy shot, which Desko considers a turnover.

Making smarter decisions has helped the top-ranked Orange (10-1, 4-0 Atlantic Coast) limit its turnovers as the season progressed, contributing to its jump into the No. 1 spot. By making better passes and not forcing shots, Syracuse has staved off top competition in close games and kept its eight-game win streak alive. Against ranked opponents through March 18, Syracuse posted 11 turnovers all three times. Since, the Orange has posted single digits against each ranked opponent.

Turnovers can make or break a game’s outcome. As the game comes down to the wire, one quick turnover can lead to a fast break and goal on the opposite end. A stretch of consecutive turnovers creates runs for opponents that otherwise shouldn’t be in a close contest against the Orange.

Against St. John’s on March 11, turnovers slowed down the Orange offense. In the first 15 minutes, Syracuse had five goals and one turnover to its name. But over the next three quarters, the offense struggled to create production, finishing with four goals and 14 turnovers the rest of the way — including six in the fourth and three in the last five minutes of the game.

With 20 seconds left, Paolo Ciferri turned the ball over and started a St. John’s counter attack. A wide shot as time expired gave the Orange a 9-8 win against the Red Storm — a game that could’ve ended in a blowout had SU played smarter with the ball.

“We just started making some ugly turnovers,” senior attack Jordan Evans said. “Myself included. That was leading to goals on the other end and them capitalizing it.”

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Leigh Ann Rodgers | Staff Photographer

In practice, when players made turnovers, they had to do pushups based on how badly the turnover was, Brad Voigt said. Even though pushups were not hard, something small like adding a penalty for turning the ball over creates an added level of importance. And it worked.

On March 25, Syracuse had its first single-digit turnover performance in a month against Duke. In a one-goal game during which freshman midfielder Jamie Trimboli netted the game-winner in overtime, Syracuse forced 15 turnovers — a plus-six margin.

A week later, against Notre Dame, the Orange dethroned the then-No. 1 Fighting Irish by one. In the last quarter of the game, SU forced three turnovers including one with two seconds left to seal the win.

“Every team gets better as the season goes on,” Voigt said. “We put major emphasis on not turning the ball over.”

The increased ball control can be largely attributed to smarter play out of Sergio Salcido and Evans, the two feeders on offense.

Salcido is the No. 1 target for defenses, and had to adapt from a shooter to a passer. In the beginning, he tried to force shots and had seven turnovers to his name through March 18 (Johns Hopkins). But he has since turned the ball over only four times and racked up 14 assists.

“You have to know how to value the ball. We control the ball when the ball’s in our stick,” Salcido said. “… It was a mutual understanding of when to push the ball and when to be a little conservative.”

Evans entered the year as the main threat but has since changed his role. Like Salcido, his turnover numbers have dropped since the Johns Hopkins game. Through the JHU game, Evans had six turnovers. Since, he’s had four and added six assists.

“If you look at (Evans’) numbers and the lack of turnovers,” Desko said, “something that doesn’t reflect in the points category is being able to run the offense and get to the right places and tell other people where to go.”

Syracuse knows one turnover can be the difference between an early exit or the national championship. It’ll need its feeders, and team overall, to keep limiting turnovers to make a deep playoff run. And so far, that’s been the case.

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