Defensive state of mind

With a number one ranking on the line, Syracuse gets its eighth straight win behind a career performance from Chris Daniello and a strong effort from a stingy defense.

After a thrilling last second win against CNY rival Cornell University on Tuesday night, the Syracuse Men’s Lacrosse Team (10-1, 3-0) looked to stay on track as they got into the meat of the Big East schedule against Rutgers University (5-6, 1-2) on Sunday night at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J.

Despite a slow start, which included a scoreless first quarter, the Orange men pulled off a convincing 11-5 win.   Led by a stellar defensive performance and hot shooting night from senior attack Chris Daniello, who followed up his game winning goal at Cornell with a career-high six points Sunday, Syracuse appeared to lock up the number one ranking in the nation.

Heading into the game, SU had a chance to take the number one spot with a win against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights after Virginia (SU’s only loss of the season) lost 13-9 to ACC foe Duke on Saturday night. 

SU head coach John Desko might have worried that a potential number one ranking, a three game road trip and an emotional late night win had drained his team heading into Sunday night’s contest.  However, his players put that thought to bed, putting on a defensive clinic and all but locking up the top spot in the process. 

The SU defense, led by a trio of New Jersey defenders, played aggressive out of the gate, forcing the Scarlet Knights into 15 first half turnovers, three more than the Knights have averaged per game this season.  When it was all said and done, Rutgers coughed up the ball 26 times. 

True freshman Brian Megill was part of the problem for the Scarlet Knight, scooping up a career-best six groundballs and causing a personal-best 4 turnovers.  Junior longstick midfielder, co-captain, pre-season All-American, and Tewaaraton Trophy finalist Joel White also dug up six ground balls and forced another three turnovers for SU.

Despite Rutgers turnover troubles, SU initially struggled to capitalize with its normally well-oiled transition game. 

The Orange went scoreless for nearly 20 minutes before the mustache sporting Daniello scored the first goal of the night at the 10:34 mark in the second quarter.  He followed that up with his second goal almost three minutes later, leading SU into the half with a 2-0 lead.

Junior midfielder Jeremy Thompson, also a Tewaaraton Trophy finalist, started the scoring off in the second half with what is fast becoming his trademark right-handed laser from 15-yards out. 

Rutgers remained scoreless, watching as senior attack Cody Jamieson scored a pair of goals from his go to crease perch on the backside pipe.

Rutgers finally broke through at the 4:17 mark of the third quarter with a goal from Syracuse native (CBA) Andrew D’Agostino.  Before the goal SU held the Scarlet Knights scoreless for just under 41 minutes.  The Orange have held six teams scoreless for at least 15 minutes this season, including a previous season-high 31:40 against Princeton in the Big City Classic at the new Meadowlands.

Attack Adam Goldberg (Fayettville-Manlius) and Midfielder Justin Pennington both scored a pair of goals to lead Rutgers in the scoring column.

In the fourth quarter Tim Desko scored a goal that rivaled his between the legs shot at the Big City Classic.  With his back to the goal he took a pass and whipped a shot behind him towards the goal as he fell to the ground.  Desko had three points on the night (2 goals, 1 assist).

Daniello scored two of the last three goals for the Orange, tying his career-high with four goals and adding two assists.  Daniello leads the Orange with 39 points this season (21 goals, 18 assists) despite being left off the list of Tewaaraton Trophy finalists, which features four SU players (White, Thompson, Jamieson and goalie John Galloway).

Daniello and the Orange are back in action for Senior Day on Saturday at the Carrier Dome against the winless Providence College Friars.  It’s the final home game of the season before SU wraps up its regular season schedule away at Notre Dame and St. John’s.

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