Against Albany, Syracuse’s week-long ground ball focus worked

first_img Comments At the postgame press conference, after Syracuse beat then-No. 15 Albany, goalkeeper Nate Siekierski sat on the podium and squinted. A reporter read aloud the faceoff stats where the Great Danes edged the Orange by one. Siekierski, who had faced 48 shots from SU, gave up 13 scores and allowed a player who hadn’t recorded more than two goals in a game in his three-year career to put in six. That stat, and the allusion that Albany had the edge in the possession category, didn’t add up.“We got worked. I was just looking at that stat,” Albany head coach Scott Marr said of SU’s ground balls advantage. “That’s a tell-tale sign of why you lose a game by eight goals.”

No. 17 Syracuse (1-1) captured a bounceback victory by executing a gameplan it set out over the course of the week in practices and film sessions. With the addition of a bevy of ground ball drills, SU laid the framework to dominate possession, which allowed its offense to come alive.Prior to the week, SU players and coaches said the difficulty of facing Colgate in its first game of the season was the inability to scout them appropriately. This was a new Raiders team — far different than the team the Orange dominated 17-5 a year earlier — and it was under the leadership of a new coach: Matt Karweck.But the Orange hadn’t had a chance to scout themselves, either. Colgate dominated possession, and it started on successful faceoffs. It continued with turnovers and mishandled pickups. Even when the Orange had the ball, it gave the ball back soon after with bad passes and shots right to the chest of Colgate goalkeeper Connor Mullen. The Orange failed to convert on many of their 50/50 opportunities, too.The few times the Orange possessed the ball for a large stint led to doorstep opportunities and long-distance strikes from way outside the crease. Syracuse showed it had what it takes to score, it just needed the ball.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Colgate had a lot of possessions. They had a lot of shots,” SU head coach John Desko said after the loss to Colgate. “Again, we didn’t have … we didn’t know what they were going to do offensively or defensively.”Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorAfter the game, the Orange noticed one glaring stat: Colgate outworked SU on ground balls 31 to 25. Though just a slight advantage, the Raiders’ ability to maintain possession tired out the Orange defense and limited Syracuse’s offensive opportunities, Desko said. So SU made ground balls the focus moving forward.While practices typically consist of a typical routine mixed in with a few “more interesting” passing drills, SU defender Tyson Bomberry said, the Orange included “at least one” ground ball drill into every single practice after Colgate.“I think we just made an emphasis this week to make sure we play you through the whistle,” Bomberry said. “Sometimes when a ball gets knocked down, everyone has to play through the whistle and get the ball and clear it. Or pick up the ball and start the offense again.”The Orange did one-on-one, two-on-one and three-on-two drills. Coaches tossed balls at all different angles, Syracuse faceoff specialist Danny Varello said, and SU players battled. Albany brought similar uncertainty because Saturday was its first game of the season — a similar lack of information that plagued the Orange a week ago.Syracuse dominated on ground balls Saturday. In addition to improved production on faceoffs, it took advantage of a Great Danes unit that lost one of the country’s top faceoff specialists in TD Ierlan. SU kept with loose balls early and often in the game, and it helped the Orange maintain possession.Syracuse used a number of players on weakside help to deny Tehoka Nanticoke of a lane to the goal. When he fell to the ground, an SU player always trailed to scoop up the loose ball. Long offensive opportunities were prolonged by SU’s ability to stick with its own shots after deflections. When SU lost the ball, there was a player there to scoop up the error.After the game, when prompted about ground balls and whether or not they were sick of them or not, SU players chuckled and buried their heads into their chest. The Orange focused more on it than they ever had in the past, Desko said, and it worked.“When you win a game and you look at the film and it’s like, ‘Ah, we should work on that a little more,’” Desko said. “But they’re not as glaring as when you lose.” Published on February 20, 2019 at 1:10 pm Contact Michael: [email protected] | @MikeJMcClearycenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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