Men's Lacrosse

Syracuse men’s lacrosse opponent preview: What to know about No. 16 Yale

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

Freshman Stephen Rehfuss emerges from behind the cage in recent action against Colgate. He and the Orange host Yale Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

No. 2 Syracuse (12-2, 4-0 Atlantic Coast) hosts Yale in the first round of the NCAA tournament Sunday night in the Carrier Dome. SU enters the matchup after a close bout with Colgate, a game that ended in a cross-field goal from Evan Molloy. SU is searching for its first Final Four appearance since 2013. Yale (10-5, 5-1 Ivy) enters Sunday after winning its conference tournament last weekend.

Here’s what you need to know about the Bulldogs ahead of the Sunday matchup.

All-time series: Syracuse leads, 19-4

Last time they played: In the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament, SU jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead. But a 6-0 Yale run that stretched over the next 43:18 dug Syracuse into a 6-4 hole. The Orange ended up pouring in three goals including a Dylan Donahue game-winner with 13 seconds left to advance to the Final Four. That was the last time SU had advanced to the semifinals.

The Yale Report: Yale was the preseason No. 6 team and boasts the seventh-ranked offense in the country. The Ivy League champions have five losses, but that includes one-goal games against Maryland and Albany.

Much of the offensive production comes from the stick of Ben Reeves. The junior attack leads the team with 38 goals and 35 assists and was recently named a top five finalist for the Tewaaraton Award.

But what Yale boasts offensively, it lacks defensively. The team ranks No. 57 in caused turnovers, 31st in scoring defense and 63rd in man-down defense. Freshman defender Aidan Hynes has been a bright spot for Yale, as he’s caused a team-high 16 turnovers (nine more than the next player) despite starting in only nine of 15 games.

reeves-6

Courtesy of Yale Athletics

Yale has thrived at the faceoff X. The team ranks seventh in faceoff percentage, led by Conor Mackie. The junior faceoff specialist has won 59 percent of faceoffs and is key to a potential upset Sunday.

How Syracuse beats Yale: Over the past few weeks, Syracuse’s weak spot has been its defense and defensive midfielders. Stopping Reeves, one of the best attacks in the country, will be priority No. 1 for the Orange. Outside of Reeves remain two others (Matt Gaudet and Eric Scott) who have 27-plus goals.

Senior defender Scott Firman is consistently tasked with the opponent’s best player and has shined in his lone year at close defense. He has limited Tewaaraton finalist Connor Fields scoreless and needs to string together another strong performance on Sunday.

The other major shift will come at the faceoff X. Syracuse senior Ben Williams has produced at a more efficient level as of late, but has been largely inconsistent all year. With a dominant faceoff specialist like Yale’s Mackie, Williams’ success will be key to starting transition and helping SU pull away from Yale.

“We want to break even at the faceoff X,” Yale head coach Andy Shay said. “… Winning the time possession battle would help a lot.”

Numbers to know:

13.13 — Number goals Yale scorers per game, good for seventh in the nation

73 — Number of points Ben Reeves has, 25 more than SU’s points leader Sergio Salcido

56.4 — Percent of man-up opportunities Syracuse converts on, second in the country. Man-down has been an area in which Yale has struggled, barely stopping half of the opportunities.

Player to watch: Ben Reeves, attack, No. 2

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound attack was named a Tewaaraton finalist for the second straight year. He leads the team with 73 points and “does everything,” according to SU head coach John Desko. Reeves is unlike traditional attacks that play behind the cage, as he can attack from the X, up top, or on the wings. If he can beat Firman consistently, SU will be in trouble on Sunday.

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