Beat writers undecided on if Syracuse can win its 1st game of the season
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Syracuse returns to the field for its first game since last May, when it lost to No. 7 Notre Dame on Senior Day with seven losses to cap a disappointing 4-10 season — the Orange’s first double-digit losing season in program history. SU lost several key players from that side, including top scorer Tucker Dordevic. But sophomore head coach Gary Gait brought with him a critically acclaimed recruiting class, and Owen Hiltz is back on the attack.
The Orange’s first opponent in 2023 is unranked Vermont, who flew through the America East Conference last season before losing to Maryland in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The Catamounts also lost some of their top scorers but are bringing back six players who earned all first-team conference honors last season.
Here’s what our beat writers are thinking when Syracuse hosts Vermont in both teams’ season opener Saturday afternoon:
Anish Vasudevan (0-0)
Conquest of the Kataberge
Syracuse 18, Vermont 14
The orange may have fallen off the first year of the Gary Gait experiment, but they can’t be worse than an America East powerhouse in Vermont, right? The Catamounts were strong throughout conference play last year, but they failed to score even five goals against the eventual national champions. SU scored 10 goals against Maryland last year. Thomas McConvey, who led UVM in 2022 with a program record 60 goals, is also now in Virginia.
Syracuse is offensively inexperienced, so it may take some time for Syracuse to find the back of the net for the first time. Defense will also have to get used to their slides and the Catamounts could find a way to break through Dave Pietramala’s unit like many teams have done over the last year. This game could be tight because of that, but SU should come out on top.
As the Orange begin to dominate on Saturday, expect Gait to use new players in all three phases of the game. Gait has yet to name a main faceoff specialist this year, although Jack Fine will most likely start at the X, having been short on time last season. This is the perfect match to find out who will be the attacker for the first time in four years without Jakob Phaup.
Connor Smith (0-0)
New year, new cuuse
Syracuse 16, Vermont 14
Last year was one of the most disappointing seasons in Syracuse Lacrosse’s storied history, finishing 4-10, 1-5 in ACC play and without NCAA tournament bid for the first time in 15 years (in a non-pandemic year). . Gait has a strong recruit class led by the nation’s top player, Joey Spallina, who is next in line to wear the No. 22. It will be a crucial class for a coach who needs to start winning games — particularly NCAA tournaments — soon.
It remains to be seen whether Spallina, Finn Thomson and the other newcomers can make an immediate impact, but the Orange will definitely need their performance from the start as SU’s top four scorers from last year are gone. Hiltz is returning after missing all of last year through injury, and Syracuse will need his goal early and often against Vermont, which dominated the American East last season before falling to top-seeded Maryland in the NCAA tournament .
I think SU will show some signs going forward with Hiltz, Spallina and Thomson leading the offense but this experienced UVM squad will give the Oranges some competition. Syracuse will eke out a season-opening win, but it won’t be easy and it will further demonstrate the disconnect that exists between SU and the rest of the ACC.
Anthony Alandt (0-0)
Stumbling off the blocks
Vermont 14, Syracuse 12
Two years ago, Syracuse narrowly defeated Vermont. Since then, the Orange have historically deteriorated and the Catamounts have developed one of the most successful teams in program history. Though Vermont graduated many seniors and may take a step back, it still has six players who were on the American East All-Conference First Team last year. They’re a fringe team in Inside Lacrosse’s preseason poll and the clear favorite to win the conference again.
Syracuse are more experienced and arguably have more talent paired with the best defensive coordinator in the nation, but I don’t think the Orange will produce a successful performance from the start. In many ways this is still the same team that won 4-10 and they will need to prove they can stop opposing attacks before this team can be trusted to win.
My expectation is that Syracuse will come out strong and maybe even lead at halftime, but will likely falter on offense and struggle to stop the Catamounts attackers, some of whom helped keep Vermont in the scored at least 13 goals 12 times last season. It’ll be a tough loss for a promising young team, but one that will teach them a lot about where they stand defensively and at the net.
Published February 1, 2023 at 9:27 p.m