The No. 4 Orange will play their second ACC game of the season and their first street game of the year against the No. 2 Blue Devils.
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Watching the rivalry between Syracuse and Duke when he was younger was one of the reasons goalkeeper Drake Porter came to SU. Gettysburg’s transfer and defender Mitch Wykoff said the words « Duke Week » have been repeated throughout the program since the first practice session of the week, words that carry a « different energy » into SU’s first away game.
« All. » excited, it’s a scary sight, « said Wykoff on Tuesday before his first matchup between Syracuse and Duke. « I wouldn’t (want) to be on the other side of the field. »
The No. 4 Orange (4-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) will be their second ACC game of the season and their first road game of the year against the No. 2 Blue Devils (8-0, 0-0) will contest Thursday in Durham, North Carolina. The Orange have played three games in a row against unrated opponents Vermont, Stony Brook and Holy Cross.
When the two teams met at Cicero-North Syracuse High School in 2019, Brendan Curry missed his first eleven shots before he buried his twelfth to give Syracuse a 9-8 overtime win over Duke No. 2. The win kept Syracuse alive in the conference title race as the Orange climbed back from a four-goal deficit at halftime and a three-goal deficit in the fourth quarter.
Head coach John Desko called it a « sloppy game » but Syracuse was in last frame alive if needed. Orange only hit the net three times in the first 51 minutes, but Curry’s overtime goal in the last minute of the game saved SU and consolidated their 9-8 victory.
The last three games between the two teams were decided by a single goal, with matchups going into overtime in 2019 and 2017.
The Blue Devils returned from the 2020 season to 10 seniors to build the # 1 preseason team of Inside Lacrosse. Duke lost first place to North Carolina in the fifth week of the season, even though both teams are currently 8-0. The matchup between Syracuse and Duke on Thursday marks the ACC kick-off for the Blue Devils after defeating senior opponents Denver, High Point and Richmond.
Duke’s most notable player is Princeton transfer Michael Sowers, who before the Season 2020 averaged 9.1 points per game, two points more than any other Division I player since 2011. This season he has 44 points in eight games.
Sowers who briefly showed interest in a transfer to Syracuse , chose Duke in part because of his year-long graduation program, Desko said.
« If Michael Sowers had said he wanted to go to Syracuse, I probably wouldn’t say no, » Desko joked on Tuesday.
The Blue Devils have Brennan O’Neill hired as # 1 in 2020 class – Owen Hiltz of Syracuse is # 2. Desko highlighted Duke’s experience when he mentioned the 15 PhD students on his list.
The Blue Devils also have a low mid-range d, which according to Desco’s scouting report this year has 10 to 11 players. The Blue Devils probably won’t face that deep against the Orange in a close game, but having these different options available – with experience this year – could prove challenging to Syracuse’s backline.
A win over the Blue Devils starts with the backline of the orange. If Syracuse’s defensive unit can cut back offensive production from Sowers, O’Neill and senior attacker Joe Robertson, the Orange has a good shot at a win. Duke may have depth in midfield, but Syracuse has the best first-line midfield in the country.
The Orange could try to reverse their offensive via Curry and Jamie Trimboli, as they did in their first five games. Curry said Tuesday that the Orange won’t like to be too pre-determined and play what Duke shows them, but SU has started perfecting its invert package and using it as a point of contact when the shot clock runs out or when the insult gets one cheap matchup, said Curry.
A strong defensive play and a big goal from Porter in goal, coupled with the All-American midfield from Syracuse, would likely lead SU to an angry win over Duke No. 2. < Faceoff specialist Jake Naso has won 65.5% of his faceoffs, a clip that is in the nation's top 15. In comparison, Jakob Phaup from Syracuse has a profit share of 59.3% this season. In another close match between Syracuse and Duke, the winner must win the majority of their encounters. Desko said both offenses depend on having the ball for long periods of time and that there will be "a fight" when it comes to innuendo.
When Duke loses the innuendo, the Blue Devils put a lot of pressure on to prevent opponents from moving the ball into the offensive end of the field, Desko said.
« They just won’t make it easy for them. They’ll push out, so we worked on it this week as well, » he said.
The Freshman Attack is number 1 in the 2020 class recruitment group. So far in 2021 he has scored 22 goals and added five assists in eight games, the most goals and the third highest points among the Blue Devils. </ O'Neill is a strong, powerful attack at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, but he's also a very elusive dodger. Desko said he'd been watching the left-hander for a number of years, stressing that the orange is moving him to the right I have to let go and try to take away the left but added that he saw O'Neill score a couple of right-handed goals.
The freshman will prove to be a tough matchup for the Orange, and he and Sowers are just starting to get things going bring what, according to Desko, will make the duo all the more dangerous.
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