An experienced Army team looks for 2nd-straight win against Syracuse

first_img Published on February 21, 2018 at 10:35 pm Contact Matt: [email protected] Facebook Twitter Google+ The first two weeks of No. 16 Syracuse’s (1-1) season could not have been more different from each other. The Orange opened the season with a 21-4 shellacking of Binghamton (0-3), where 12 different players scored for SU.The Orange followed up its massive opening-day win with one of its worst losses in decades. Then-No. 4 Albany (1-0) thrashed the Orange, 15-3, in the Great Danes first game of the season, earning its second win against the Orange in program history and handing SU its worst home defeat since a 19-6 loss against Cornell in 1987.This Saturday, SU finishes up its opening home stand against No. 9 Army (3-0), which is coming off a 9-7 win against No. 13 Rutgers. One key piece that may be missing, though, is Army’s “top defender,” Johnny Surdick, Army head coach Joe Alberici said. Surdick missed last Saturday’s contest against Rutgers due to an injury. In his place, senior long-stick midfielder Jon LaMonica moved to defense, finishing with a team-leading 14 ground balls. Alberici is “hopeful” Surdick will play on Saturday, but that is to be determined.The last two seasons, Army and Syracuse have split their matchups. Syracuse won, 9-8, in 2016 and lost, 14-13, in 2017. In last year’s contest, SU had to play without its all-time faceoff leader in Ben Williams, but it had veteran go-to scorers in Nick Mariano and Sergio Salcido. This year’s Syracuse team is much different, while Army’s is much of the same.Veteran attackAdvertisementThis is placeholder textWhile Syracuse lost three of its top-five scorers from last season, the Black Knights return all but one of their top-five scorers, including 2017 USILA All-American Honorable Mention David Symmes, who played hero last season against SU, putting a game-winner past Evan Molloy with 0.5 seconds remaining.“Symmes is an impressive athlete,” Alberici said. “Great size. Good speed. Shoots the ball hard.”So far this season, the senior ranks third on the team with nine points — six goals and three assists. Tied for first are Nate Jones and Conor Glancy, who each have tallied 10 points through their first three games. Both seniors found the back of the net last year against SU. Army returns all but two players who scored in last season’s game.Still, Army isn’t the same offensive juggernaut that Albany is. Last week, Syracuse’s defense was exhausted in the second half, sophomore defender Nick Mellen said.“We can’t say let’s do what Tehoka (Nanticoke) did,” Alberici said. “We just don’t have that guy.”The Black Knights do not have a Nanticoke-type talent, but they do have a diverse, experienced offense that can attack its opponents in many different ways.Battle at the faceoff XThen-freshman Danny Varello first made his name as a collegiate faceoff specialist against Army last season, winning 10-of-17 faceoffs against Dan Grabher, the fifth-leading faceoff specialist in the country at the end of the 2017 season. Against Binghamton two weeks ago, Varello dominated, winning 15-of-17 en route to being named to the USILA Team of the Week.“He dominated,” Binghamton head coach Kevin McKeown said following the game. “It’s tough to win a ball game when you don’t have the ball.”Syracuse suffered a similar fate last Saturday against Albany. Varello folded, winning 3-of-13 against TD Ierlan, and SU rarely possessed the ball in its three-goal performance.Varello struggled mightily to win the ball against Albany, and has struggled with turnovers in both games. Against the Bearcats, Varello turned the ball over on 20 percent of his face-off wins.Ahead 4-0 in the first quarter, Varello won the faceoff against Binghamton’s Brendan Patterson. After the win, two Bearcats midfielders double-teamed Varello. Instead looking for the easy pass back to his defense, Varello tried to force a one-handed pass to a midfielder, resulting in a turnover.On Saturday, Army will bring that same pressure.“Our goal will be to try to make it a 10-man game as much as we can,” Alberici said.Plus, Army’s faceoff specialist, John Ragno, doubles down as a short-stick defensive midfielder as well. A good athlete, Alberici said, Ragno is especially tough to beat when the ball is on the ground, plus his win percentage at the faceoff X is one of the best in the country at 67.6 percent.“We’re going to rely on him to make it scrappy,” Alberici said.Do-it-all playersRagno isn’t Army’s only multi-dimensional weapon. Sophomore midfielder Matt Manown has become one of Alberici’s go-to players as a two-way midfielder.Manown is one of the best defensive players on the team, Alberici said, and his offense is only getting better. Manown led the Black Knights with four points against Rutgers — two goals and two assists.A former hockey player, Manown will work defensively to eliminate easy shots around the crease from the likes of Nate Solomon and Brendan Bomberry.“Whatever it is you ask him to do, whenever, it’s a nod and he’s going to do it to his best ability,” Alberici said. “We anticipated Matt to be that two-way midfielder for us that would go back defensively and get stops when we needed them. At a loose ball pile, he comes off ripping again and again and again.”What the coaching staff did not anticipate is Manown to rank fourth on the team in scoring, just two points behind Symmes, creating a more diverse offense than even Army thought it had.But for all the talk about SU’s struggles against Albany, Alberici knows there is more to SU than what people saw on Saturday. The first half, he said, was much closer than the scoreboard indicated, and the missed opportunities that Syracuse couldn’t capitalize on was what made the team struggle so badly in the second half. But Army isn’t Albany. And the loss to the Great Danes is in the past. Alberici knows SU isn’t focused on it anymore, and he knows his team cannot focus on it either.“We need to set the tone,” Alberici said. “What happened last week shouldn’t dictate what happens in this game. That’s going to be before we step on the field.” Commentslast_img

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