Terrapins blow out Orange, 16-8

After dominating Syracuse on face-offs, everything else fell into place for Maryland in the win.

After months of speculation and discussion, the entire Syracuse men's lacrosse program has to be tired of talking about its problems at the X.

Since last year’s heartbreaking loss to Duke in the national title game, since a 5-0 lead got buried by a flurry of lost possessions and quick goals, Syracuse head coach John Desko assured anyone that would listen that the Orange’s faceoff problem was behind them. But after a humbling 16-8 loss to No. 5 Maryland (3-0, 1-0 ACC) Saturday in SU's first ACC game at the Carrier Dome — its worst loss in a decade — those questions will be asked more frequently, and Syracuse doesn’t seem any closer to an answer.

“The next game will tell us [if this is a long-term concern],” Desko said, with an expression that said he’d rather be talking about anything else. “It’s been a concern for us in the past, but I thought Chris Daddio has come a long way. It’s a very difficult thing.”

Things started well for No. 2 Syracuse (2-1, 0-1 ACC). Midfielder Daddio held his own at the X for the first 15 minutes, the Orange’s off-ball cutting and passing continued to have success and Derek Maltz scored early in the second quarter to give SU a 4-2 lead. But it went downhill from there.

Maryland faceoff specialist Charlie Raffa took over, and from the second quarter forward it was a blur of goals, lost possessions and more goals. Raffa won nine of 13 faceoffs, including six in a row, and the Terps ripped off a 10-1 run to end the half. There were six unanswered goals in a span of just 2:26 with three violations by Daddio.

Once the faceoff battle became a rout, the rest snowballed in a hurry: The Terps got more possessions, more man advantages and cleaner looks off the break — all while the potent Orange offense could only stand and watch. The 12-5 halftime lead felt essentially insurmountable.

“It just started to get away from me,” Daddio said. “He got a couple, and then I started jumping the whistle to try to get back on track, which is the last thing I should be doing. It cost us a few in a row, gave them some man-ups, and that was the key to the game — they had possession over and over again.”

The faceoff issue will dominate headlines, and it’s certainly a big reason for concern. But this was an all-encompassing collapse, as the struggles at the X seemed to permeate every facet of the game. The Orange defense was flat-footed, having to defend for minutes on end, and the offense began to press with ill-advised shots just seconds into possessions. Maryland was the hungrier team and fed off of that energy with a 36-17 advantage in ground balls and a staggering 55 shots. Every bounce seemed to go Maryland's way.

“I think the best thing about today is we can’t play any worse as a team,” attacker Kevin Rice said. “It’s never one guy or one position’s fault. If someone’s having a down day, the rest of the team has to pick him up. From the attack, we had uncaused turnovers; defensively we gave up some lapses; as a team collectively, we need to step it up and move forward.”

Perhaps most alarming was just how quickly the Orange unraveled when the game began to shift. Goalie Dominic Lamolinara, a Maryland transfer playing against his former team for the first time, got off to a white-hot start with six saves in the first quarter. But as the possessions piled up for the Terps, the defensive pressure slackened and the looks got cleaner. Both bounce shots and well-placed strikes from outside found the net, and his confidence and body language melted in a hurry.

Once Maryland made its run, Syracuse answered with frustration and silly mistakes. It couldn’t find anything to pull itself out of the hole. The offense that had so much success against Albany and Siena was forced out of its game as it rushed against Maryland’s tight man defense.

“We were the ones who should’ve played composed here in the Dome, but we didn’t,” Desko said. “We made a lot of mistakes defensively, we rushed things offensively which you can’t do against Maryland. Then you have to go into halftime and play catchup, you shoot a little too quickly, and you’re pouring gasoline on the fire. Everything was bouncing their way and we weren’t able to fight through it.”

It was a harrowing reminder of just how difficult the ACC can be, and also of just how long the Orange can afford to let this loss linger. Next week, Syracuse will travel to a tough Virginia team, and the road only gets tougher from there. This team will be forced to find solutions, along with a lot of grit, or watch its season slip away.

“It’s our time to step up now,” said Matt Harris, a senior in the midfield who has watched his defense give up 16 goals in consecutive games. “We all have to look at the film and get better, because it’s gut-check time.”

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