#1 Syracuse Men’s Lacrosse To Face #2 Virginia Friday Night And Is “As Good As It Gets For Lacrosse Fans”; Syracuse Defense Is One Of The Keys To The Matchup


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Friday night’s match up between Syracuse and Virginia at the Carrier Dome is as good as it gets for lacrosse fans, and the participants. “For real lacrosse people, this is the game they want to be part of,” said Virginia coach Dom Starsia. “It is the game circled on the schedule above all others.”

The Orange men’s lacrosse team has played the Cavaliers 21 times in a 15-year span. SU leads the series 11-10.

syracusemenslacrossedefense“It’s hard work,” said senior short-stick defensive midfielder Spencer Van Schaack, a team captain. “Coach Rogers says it all the time. Defense is hard work. You’ve just got to suck it up and do it, just like on the basketball court. Lacrosse and basketball defensively are pretty similar.”

The Orange lacrosse team has held opponents to fewer than 10 goals in 15 of its last 20 games. Last season, the defense allowed just 7.6 goals per game, an improvement of about four goals per game over the previous season. Assistant coach Lelan Rogers has a lot to do with the Orange’s improvement on ‘D.’

Senior short-stick defensive midfielder Spencer Van Schaack offers some insight into Rogers’ philosophy. “It’s hard work. Coach Rogers says it all the time. Defense is hard work. You’ve just got to suck it up and do it,” Van Schaack said.

Rogers’ defense will be put to the test tonight when No. 1 Syracuse faces longtime rival, No. 2 Virginia at the Carrier Dome. “We’re going to find out what we’re made of this week, that’s for sure,” Rogers said.

Lelan Rogers began playing pickup basketball as a means of getting some lunchtime exercise while he was coaching lacrosse and football at Division III Ohio Wesleyan. What he learned on the court nearly two decades ago has helped the offensive-minded Syracuse University men’s lacrosse team develop a stout defensive backbone.

With Rogers serving as defensive coordinator last season, the Orange allowed only 7.6 goals per game, an improvement of roughly four goals per game over the previous season.

It was the defense’s most stingy effort in 38 years, worthy of a No. 14 national ranking. There were several reasons behind the accomplishment, among them a veteran returning unit, a faceoff specialist who gave the SU offense the ball two times for every three draws he took, and an offense so potent it often made foes force their own scoring chances in an effort to keep up.

The biggest, though, was the lesson Rogers, a former national wrestling champion at St. Lawrence and team captain at SU, learned on the hardwood.

“When youget older you don’t wrestle,” Rogers said Wednesday as he helped prepare the No. 1 Orange for No. 2 Virginia at 7 p.m. today in the Carrier Dome. “I’m at Ohio Wesleyan, and I’m not wrestling at noontime with the faculty and staff. We’re playing basketball. Obviously, I was not an outside shooter in basketball, not real offensive, so you learn to play defense.

“You take pride on that side of the ball, and that’s probably where I became a defensive-minded coach. You have to know your role and understand your role. I knew I wasn’t a great offensive basketball player, so you gravitate to what you do well. I’m sure I had more than my share of fouls.”

Rogers has taken those ingredients – pride, hard work and understanding your role – molded them into a simple philosophy and instilled it into SU’s defense. He and his players agree that the team’s emergence as a defensive force is nothing more than that.

“It’s hard work,” said senior short-stick defensive midfielder Spencer Van Schaack, a team captain. “Coach Rogers says it all the time. Defense is hard work. You’ve just got to suck it up and do it, just like on the basketball court. Lacrosse and basketball defensively are pretty similar.”

“We justgot back to basic fundamentals,” junior close defender Matt Tierney said. “Just a lot of talk, a lot of communication and just backing up each other.”

The results have been impressive. The Orange has held foes to fewer than 10 goals in 15 of its last 20 games, remarkable considering the tempo its offense plays and the chances it is sometimes willing to take in order to create scoring opportunities, leaving the defense vulnerable.

“The thing I really see is they don’t give you anything,” Army coach Joe Alberici said a few days before SU held his offense down in a 17-6 victory.

“You have to earn it. They are so athletic. They have a constant, and that is defensive effort and defensive enthusiasm. Some days the offense isn’t as good as other days. That’s just the way it is in this sport. Some years that may have hurt them, but now with that defensive effort and enthusiasm and being the athletes they are, that is no longer an issue.”

“The difference with what they’re doing defensively is noticeable,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “Simplified is the word you hear most often to describe it. They simplified what they’re doing back there. It is now a very efficient defense. To say it is not is to kid yourself. It may be vulnerable at times, but for who they are and who they want to be, it is very solid.”

So far, it continues to be solid even though veteran close defenders Evan Brady and Kyle Guadagnolo and short-stick D-middies John Carrozza and Steve Babbles departed following last season’s title run. Two games into the season the defense is allowing only 4.5 goals per contest.

http://www.syracuse.com/orangelacrosse/index.ssf?/base/sports-0/1235728693171500.xml&coll=1

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