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Syracuse's Desko responds to scrutiny

Seemingly all season, critics have besieged Syracuse, questioning why a team that boasts seven All-American seniors has won seven games by two goals or less.

The chorus grew in volume after the Orange got walloped by Cornell, 11-6, on April 12 – a result that dropped the team from No.  1 to No. 3 in The Sun’s rankings.

Even with top defenseman John Lade (high left ankle sprain) ending a three-game absence by starting in the team's 13-7 dismantling of Hobart on Tuesday night to improve to 11-1, doubters are beginning to suggest that Syracuse might not enjoy a long stay in the NCAA tournament.

But coach John Desko said the Orange – which has the top-rated strength of schedule and RPI according to – has nothing to apologize for.

“It’s not like we’ve been a secret this year,” he said Tuesday. “We’ve come in as the preseason No. 1 and maybe No. 2 in another poll, and then beating UVA early, we stayed at that No. 1 spot for several weeks. I’ve watched a lot of game film on our opponents, and most times, I see a different team when we play them than what I see on film. I think people have raised their level of play when they come to play us. As far as how I’m used to seeing the game played, we haven’t been in very many games like that until this year in that everybody has come in with either a good faceoff guy or has played zone defense for most of the game or stalled the ball. When teams like Hopkins come in here and hold the ball for five, six minutes at a time, I’m not sure it’s a lot of fun to watch or to play. But we’ve been able to roll up our sleeves and beat all these good opponents. I think we’ve played nine of the top 11 teams in the country at one point, and it’s not like we’re going up against Joe Smith the Ragman. We’ve played a lot of good games and come out ahead. I think that speaks to the character of the group.”

No one likes to lose, but Syracuse will at least avoid talk of going undefeated. And Desko said the setback could serve as a rallying point for the players.

“I look back to last year’s group, and everybody said what a disappointing season it was because we lost in the first round of the playoffs,” he said, referring to the 9-8 double-overtime loss to Army in the NCAA tournament. “But during the regular season, we only lost one game by one goal, and that was to UVA early in the year. We kind of wondered after the Army game that if we had experienced a loss before that game, would that have made us a better group in some ways or helped us to refocus? I’m hoping that’s what Cornell has done to us. I hope we know that if we don’t bring our A game to every game, then we certainly can lose. So I think it helps us get refocused, and hopefully, that will help us come playoff time.”

Posted by Edward Lee at 6:00 AM | | Comments (4)


Hop certainly slows the game down...engage hated players playing in the parking lot!! Bottom line NCAA LAX needs a shot clock and a solid system to enforce it, rule on it, introduce it.....period.....watching all these coaches......"over coach" to stay in games makes me a ten year NLL is awful....but everyone wants to keep their jobs and not have to work in the real world (you all don't know how lucky you have it) put on your gore tex gear and whistle and get stressed out about the free spandex not arriving on time.......oh the problems all ye have.....

The use of control of game tempo is a time-honored defensive tactic in lacrosse. In modern days, it was used as early as the 1973 NCAA Final game, when Hall of Fame Johns Hopkins coach Bob Scott used it against an undefeated Maryland team that had beaten Hopkins 17 - 4 in the regular season. The Maryland team had an offense-oriented game that took advantage of their speed and depth (and Frank Urso). Hopkins lost in 2 OTs to Maryland but their tactic to minimize Maryland's strengths and to emphasize their less-robust defense nearly gave Hopkins a win..
The tactic has been successfully used in the NCAA tournament more recently. In 2008 Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala secured the championship for Syracuse by beating an undefeated Duke team in the Semi-Finals. The Duke team, like Maryland in 1973, was a run-and-gun offense-oriented team and Duke coach Danowski was not able to come up with a way to successfully deal with the defensive tactic.
Coaches like Desko of Syracuse complain about such tactics because they cannot devise ways to deal with them (even with 7 All-Stars!) and they get out-coached, due to a 1-dimensional team.
A shot clock would limit the ability of coaches to devise a defense tailored to the opponents team and would be yet another step to make lacrosse look more like basketball . Rule changes can have unanticipated effects. For example, unlimited substitution was the death knell of the well-rounded lacrosse player and slows the game down unnecessarily. New stick technology allows players to fall down while being checked by two defenders and still keep the ball in the stick.
Changes in a 125-year-old sport should be approached with caution. For intelligent fans, good defensive tactics are fun to watch, although they are not a series of foot races followed by a shooting contest. However, that may not be the audience the NCAA is trying to satisfy.

Clyde, I totally agree. The college game has been ruined by over coaching. the fast break is a thing of the past. It is usually 2-3 minutes between shots on goals. Duke was fun to watch last year because they played at a great tempo. Hopkins is the worst offender of a slow down, but they are not the only ones. The game has become boring, even for the players.

The only team to beat SU is 45 minutes away. So SU beat Virginia/Hopkins/Duke/ Maryland in a Scrimmage and this program has to take a back seat to Nobody.This ACC Lacrosse. Bias has gone on for decades. Questioning Desko What a Joke. Question the Coach's he has beaten and find out why they Lost.

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About Faceoff
Faceoff is The Baltimore Sun's blog devoted to college and high school lacrosse. Faceoff contributors include Sun reporters Edward Lee, Mike Preston and Katherine Dunn.

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