Syracuse men’s lacrosse roundtable: ACC tournament, Ben Williams, offensive threats

first_img Published on April 26, 2017 at 9:24 pm Top-ranked Syracuse begins the 2017 ACC tournament on Friday at 6 p.m. against No. 4 seed North Carolina in Durham. The Orange (11-1, 4-0 Atlantic Coast) has won nine-straight games and four straight against UNC (6-7, 1-3) dating to 2015. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, have dropped back-to-back games, including a loss to SU on April 15 on their home turf.Our beat writers answer three questions surrounding the Orange.What will it take for Syracuse to beat North Carolina for the second time in as many weeks and win a third straight ACC tournament?Charlie DiSturco: To beat North Carolina, Syracuse will have to avoid the off-ball screens and be physical with Luke Goldstock, who ripped through SU for six points earlier this season. The defense has to stay on top of its slides and have Scott Firman stick with Goldstock throughout. What’s more important overall, however, is the Orange’s offensive production. It seems at times, the offense stalls and struggles to pull SU out of a rut. Other times, it erupts for a huge run. This is why so many games end with a margin of one goal. The inconsistency on offense will need to fade for SU to win its third consecutive ACC tournament.Sam Fortier: Syracuse cannot fall behind. The Orange fell into a 10-5, late-third quarter hole against the Tar Heels last time out and narrowly beat Binghamton last week. After winning so many one-goal games, having so many near-miracle runs come through, SU cannot rely on the same magic in the postseason. The second and third quarters of these two teams’ past matchup was one of the worst defensive performances of the season, defender Firman said. Goalie Evan Molloy identified UNC’s successful inverts as a culprit. No matter what it is, the Orange must lock it down to have a shot come Friday. And, as we saw last season, beating North Carolina twice in three weeks is possible.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMatthew Gutierrez: What’s most important is a steady Williams at the X and bounce-back performance from the SU defense on Goldstock, who scored three goals and had three assists against SU on April 15. Syracuse probably doesn’t win if Goldstock or any opponent goes off like that again. In a broader sense, an early deficit doesn’t seem to faze Syracuse and, in some ways, almost ignites this group. That’s not a recipe for success, but it could set up SU for another series of thrilling finishes here in the final weeks. The Orange has beaten UNC four straight times and a win Friday — what would be SU’s 10th straight — would give Syracuse the momentum it needs to win its third-straight conference tournament.With Syracuse’s title run nearing, how much can SU trust an on-and-off Ben Williams at the faceoff X? C.D.: You have to trust Ben Williams. He’s been the go-to guy at the X for years and is an All-American. Even with his inconsistencies, Syracuse has been able to win. By taking him out, SU loses that physical presence after each score. Danny Varello has been good when replacing Williams, but he’s too young to entrust an ACC tournament game with. That’s when you go to a guy who’s been comfortable playing in big games — regardless of how he’s been playing.Daily Orange File PhotoS.F.: This is a tricky one because while Williams is having his worst season ever at the X by percentage (.552), he’s come up in the clutch. He won the only overtime faceoff against Johns Hopkins and North Carolina, and after losing 11-of-16 before the fourth quarter against Binghamton, Williams fought back to win 3-of-4 in the final frame to lead SU to victory. He struggled with an injury earlier this season but SU head coach John Desko has said multiple times he’s OK now and just working on his form. But Syracuse doesn’t have that kind of time in the postseason. If Williams struggles early, we could see Danny Varello, but it’d take a lot for Desko to bench an all-time Orange great.M.G.: Over five games, Williams has won a shade over 60 percent of faceoffs against North Carolina’s Stephen Kelly, including 10 of his last 12. That figures to give Williams and Syracuse the edge come Friday night. Whether that translates to the games thereafter is pretty much up in the air. Williams is unquestionably on a long leash, but if he goes cold over a full half, Varello could see a lot of minutes this weekend and beyond. That’s not a bad thing, as Varello has proved he can hold his own.Who is Syracuse’s biggest offensive threat? Does it even matter?C.D.: The biggest offensive threat for Syracuse is Nick Mariano. Wherever he is on the field — midfield or attack — he’s a huge problem for defenses. He’s extremely accurate when shooting and has been able to create space even after opponents cut off his left hand. Sergio Salcido is the facilitator of the offense, but is way too inconsistent with his shot. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Syracuse is such a balanced offense and that’s why the team’s No. 1 in the rankings. Even without Mariano and Salcido, SU has more than a handful of players that have proven to be offensive threats.S.F.: Mariano. He’s more consistent than Salcido, more versatile than Brendan Bomberry, more productive than Jordan Evans and occasionally draws a short-stick. Yet full disclosure: I picked Mariano because a) I believe it and b) I didn’t want to cop out, but ultimately I don’t think it matters. Reserve attack Stephen Rehfuss had four straight points to bring SU back at North Carolina two weeks and the first and last goals of regulation in that game were scored by a short-stick defensive midfielder. Take away Syracuse’s best shots and, somehow, they’ve got more in the chamber.M.G.: When I asked UNC head coach Joe Breschi whom he fears most on Syracuse, he laughed. He said he was pleased with how his defense played in Chapel Hill, despite blowing a lead. Syracuse “proves you don’t need a No. 1 guy,” he said. It matters very little because SU is so well spread out in the six-on-six. The Orange has the country’s second-best man-up unit and eight players have eight or more goals. Heck, the defensive midfielders are practically a potent threat by themselves. That said, with the game on the line you want Mariano (three game-winners) taking the shot. He’s a proven winner who won’t shy away as the clock winds down. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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